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The Jumbo Visma Shark-Jumping Will Be Televised

The Jumbo Visma Shark-Jumping Will Be Televised

There is a funny story from I think the 1968 Giro d’Italia, which I recall as one of those Eddy Merckx anecdotes. He and teammate Vittorio Adorni are dominating the race’s general classification, with Merckx in pink by some nine minutes over the nearest non-teammate. The race is almost over, but after a day’s stage and transfer to the next hotel, Merckx and Adorni go to their hotel room together. There, Merckx pulls out a map of the next day’s stage, points to a spot, and says to Adorni, “Tomorrow, we attack here!” Adorni responds, “Attack? Attack who?”

The story is supposed to be funny because obviously there is no answer. It’s a ridiculous story. And yet Jumbo-Visma decided, on the slopes of the Angliru yesterday, that there was an answer, and it was the Red Jersey, their own rider, Sepp Kuss. Maybe these guys are the successors of Rabobank after all.

For 24 hours the cycling world has litigated the matter of whether Jumbo should have allowed Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic to attack Kuss while the American super-domestique held the lead. They hemmed and hawed to the press all evening about how they sure do want Kuss to win, or maybe they will just see… something and let it work out blah blah blah — nothing of enough substance that would explain, or even stop contradicting, what we saw with our own eyes. My take is that it is an abomination, given how splendid a teammate Kuss is, that you would suddenly trash the edict that you don’t attack your leader, made far worse by the Merckxesque level of security they enjoy. Kuss, for his part, knows that this is the chance of a lifetime, that there is literally nobody in sight of even the third-best Jumbo rider right now, with Evenepoel blowing a gasket and little more than an undercooked Juan Ayuso and repeatedly overcooked Mikel Landa for “competition.” At least LeMond could point at Stephen Roche and tell Hinault, are you sure I shouldn’t go up the road??

None of it makes any sense unless you think someone involved is either an idiot or acting in bad faith. For my money the leading culprits are with Vingegaard and Roglic, who may actually even believe their own bullshit about wanting Kuss to win. Lack of self-awareness, alas, is not a form of honesty. They can’t help themselves when they ditch their leader, even though they know it’s wrong and can mouth the words afterwards about how it was “uncomfortable” or whatever they said. In the moment, though, they…

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