Merijn Zeeman, the esteemed directeur sportif of the Jumbo-Visma cycling team, has candidly disclosed the internal strains experienced during the formidable Alto de L'Angliru stage at the Vuelta a España. He acknowledged that a strategic misstep occurred when the team’s trio of leaders fragmented on the challenging ascent, stirring up potential discord regarding team leadership and overall victory aspirations.
Sepp Kuss was adorned in the leader’s red jersey for the ninth consecutive day at this pivotal stage. However, he found himself distanced on the gruelling gradients of the Asturian climb, as his teammates Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard pressed ahead.
Despite Vingegaard narrowing the gap to a mere eight seconds behind the leader, the team quickly dismissed any rumors of internal rivalry at the time, asserting that the three were at liberty to compete against each other.
Yet, in a recent revelation on the Met Open Vizier podcast, Zeeman confessed that leaving Kuss to fend for himself at the summit was a tactical error, as reported by WielerFlits. He explained, “Everything was going according to plan until only three of us left.
That’s when things took a wrong turn. Sepp couldn’t keep up with Primož and Jonas, and suddenly, there was no teamwork”.
Angliru Stage Strategies
Zeeman elaborated that while collaborative efforts had defined their strategy until that point, the Angliru stage necessitated a different approach.
“They should have stayed together. There’s a significant difference between launching attacks to force competitors to exert themselves and attacking each other,” he remarked. Acknowledging the intense physical demands of such steep climbs, Zeeman noted, “With heart rates soaring to 200, you can’t expect them to think straight”.
In the aftermath, the team displayed a unified front, with Roglič and Vingegaard rallying behind Kuss on the subsequent stage to La Cruz de Linares, quelling the whirlwind of speculation and criticism. Zeeman detailed the team’s reflective process, emphasizing open communication and mutual respect.
“We gathered everyone together and facilitated a candid conversation. The majority, except for Roglič, concurred that Kuss should assume the mantle of leadership,” he shared. Zeeman commended the team’s commitment to their collective ethos: "Cycling, for us, is a team sport.
That evening, we re-established our identity and clarified our values”. Despite initial reservations, he highlighted that even Roglič eventually embraced the team’s decision, vowing his support for Kuss’s bid for victory.
This transparent and collaborative approach underscores Jumbo-Visma’s dedication to fostering a robust team culture that prioritizes unity and shared objectives, ensuring that every member, regardless of status, has a voice and a role in shaping the team’s trajectory.