Jumbo-Visma have tried to downplay their status as the team to topple Ineos at next months’ Tour de France.
The Dutch team will field an eight-strong roster with three general classification threats: 2017 Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin, 2019 Vuelta a España victor Primož Roglič, and Steven Kruijswijk, who finished third at last year’s Tour.
Many see the yellow and black outfit as the team that will deny Team Ineos an eighth win in cycling’s biggest race since their first in 2012 when they were known as Team Sky.
George Bennett, previously a protected rider at Grand Tours but to be used as one of the team’s super domestiques in France, told Cycling Weekly that the race will not solely be a battle of his team against the British squad – although he admits that support for them is warranted.
“It’s a dangerous narrative to say it’s just us versus Ineos,” the New Zealander, whose best Grand Tour result was eighth at the 2018 Giro d’Italia, told Cycling Weekly. “There are a lot of other very dangerous teams that we are not talking about.
“We know we are one of the favourites and with that comes a certain responsibility and pressure, but what do we do about that? We can’t go faster than we can go.
“We have do the process right, train hard, look at what we eat, look at the equipment we have, and back ourselves.
“We have got the tag as a favourite because we know how to do it. People don’t just say ‘oh you look like a favourite’.
“No, we have this tag because we have repeatedly done good things so we have earned that status. Now we have to continue with these good things.”
Roglič’s win at the Vuelta elevated the team’s standing. “I don’t know if it was a watershed moment,” Bennett continued, “but it added to a combination of many small moments heading in a positive direction that has confirmed what we can do.”
Bennett’s message was echoed by his sports director, Frans Maassen. “I don’t really know about us having the best team, but we do have a really good team,” he said.
“We work hard and we have to try to be as good as possible at the Tour. We will go for it.
“Most of the Tour guys have been training in Dénia [in Alicante, Spain] and I’ve not seen them, but the messages I have received is that preparation has been really good.”
Defending champion Egan Bernal will lead Ineos alongside Geraint Thomas, but a question mark remains as to whether four-time winner Chris Froome will also be part of Ineos’ charge, especially with the Briton leaving the team at the end of the season.
Will Froome’s departure aid Jumbo-Visma? “Ineos always prove that they can get the job done,” Maassen added.
“We will see if Froome even does the Tour, but in the past they have always been at a really high level. They are always well prepared in every aspect and this year will be the same. They have a strong squad and it will be a nice battle.
“They have been the best team for seven of the last eight years but we want to battle them in the Tour.
“But of course there are many more teams, many more strong riders other than Ineos.
“We have a strong team, we believe, we have done the hard work, we know that we can make it really hard for Ineos. We are excited.”