Another one of the Big Boys... So much is already written about this team that, to make this fun, I had to try to go off the usual script a bit. Does it work? I don’t know, but the kit design review should atone for any shortcomings. Let’s go!
1. Wow, Jumbo really made the leap!
Or did they? By The Leap, I mean ascending dramatically above their previous position to a more exalted place. And ... depending on who you believe, Jumbo were nearly exactly the same team they were in 2021.
I am having trouble confirming the actual World Tour standings from the past couple years, because there is nothing so simple that the UCI cannot completely fuck up. At most, you can find the three-year data used by the UCI to determine licensing, which has Jumbo ranked #1. But there are a lot of points systems out there, and at the conclusion of 2022 they mostly have Jumbo close but just behind INEOS and maybe UAE — more or less a repeat of the 2021 standings, albeit closer in actual points. In the more inclusive Podium Cafe rankings, UAE was first last year followed by INEOS and Jumbo. Over at CQRanking, INEOS saw its 2021 gap shrink but still held on. In terms of victory totals, Quick Step’s command of that category slipped but didn’t disappear, with Jumbo still one win short in ‘22. If you look at the individual performances, who besides Olav Kooij (in smaller races) really blew up their stats from ‘21 to ‘22?
Just one guy, Jonas Vingegaard. I don’t need to tell you about the year he had. My point is, this team was nearly identical to its 2021 self, until Primož Roglič, who now enjoys the distinction of Google suggesting I add “crash” to a search of his name, did exactly that in the Vuelta. Had Rogla gone on to a Vuelta win or podium spot, the parallels to the previous year would have been even spookier. Except at the Tour, which is all that counts, and which probably says a lot about how they handled their business last year. Very single-minded.
This is a bit unusual, no? Teams aim for consistency but it is elusive, particularly where health is involved. Jumbo has had a decent run there, apart from Roglič, and a third straight year might be hard to deliver. But really, I think we need to appreciate how they came so close to ultimate glory in 2021 and just ran it back, a little bit better this time, to reach the mountaintop. No flukes, no disappearing rivals, just phenomenal execution. Maybe they didn’t make the literal leap on the stat sheet, but where it matters, they sure did.
2. The Quicker Steppers?
So yeah, 2023 probably won’t look the same, but rather than go down the rabbit hole of handicapping the Tour, I do think Jumbo Visma will be different in one important respect: they may have succeeded Quick Step as the dominant team for the Classics.
Not that last year was a dud for them — Wout Van Aert won E3 Harelbeke, then got sick and in his absence Christophe Laporte stepped up and nearly won Gent-Wevelgem, while also taking top 10 in Flanders. By Roubaix Van Aert was back for another second place. Not a bad campaign at all, even if they probably view it as a major disappointment seeing illness rob Van Aert of his top form, forcing him to sit out de Ronde entirely. So not everything health-wise went their way last year.
For the moment, though, the 2023 race calendar and the lineup of racers and teams for the cobbled classics are all back to normal. Matti and Wout are locked in their usual muddy winter battle royale. Paris-Roubaix is back to its slot one week after Flanders. A million other guys will be there loaded for victory this year. But they will all have to grapple with a Jumbo-Visma team that, if healthy, looks like a dominant classics team in the mold of one of Boonen’s Quick Step squads.
They have a true, intimidating A-Number-One leader in Van Aert. They have a very credible #2 in every race, be it Laporte early on or maybe Tiesj Benoot or even the newly-recruited Dylan van Baarle defending his Paris-Roubaix title. They lost Mike Teunissen but replaced him with Jan Tratnik (12th in Flanders) to further unnerve their rivals. They have support riders everywhere you look. I’ll do the full team-by-team comparisons later — don’t you worry about that — but at a quick glance this team might take over the cobbles in a way that exceeds even their work at the Tour.
3. Is this fair?
I mean, again, not really. Cycling’s free-for-all financial structure doesn’t do the sport any favors when it comes to maximizing competition, and Jumbo are where they are in part due to a top-three budget. Thankfully the talent boom is enough of a rising tide to lift many boats, budgets be damned, and even if the power is concentrated in a few teams, brilliant cycling is still a sight to behold.
But — if you will permit me to get a wee bit into the national identities of teams, which I usually think is overblown, but maybe not here — isn’t it about time for a Dutch team to throw its weight around? In the past few decades we have seen dominant turns by Quick Step, Sky/Ineos, Columbia-HTC, CSC, Mapei and Telekom... Belgians, Anglos, Americans, Danes, Italians and Germans.
The last time a Dutch team finished #1 overall was in 1990, when Sean Kelly and Erik Breukink drove Team PDM to the summit, following a decade of Dutch mega-teams (Panasonic especially, plus PDM, Skil and Ti-Raleigh) topping the charts. That was a long time ago, but Dutch influence on the sport continues to be huge. Dutch riders are everywhere, and while Tour de France wins have been elusive, plenty of other major races have gone their way. And no shock, the Netherlands is a hypermodern country full of engineers, sports scientists and active people. One survey claimed that they have the highest rate of bicycle ownership in the world, at over 99%. They even own a corner of Alpe d’Huez. They get the sport, more than almost all other countries.
I’m not saying that Dutch cycling is entitled to the top rank all the time, but missing out for a full thirty years seems pretty out of whack. And yeah, the Rabobank era was a black eye, but even there, I don’t know why Dutch cycling should pay a greater price than any other country’s system. So enjoy your little spin at or near the top Jumbo, and Dutch cycling fans. And hup Mathieu! [Oh, the irony...]
4. That empty feeling
Masked behind all this great news for Jumbo and its neighbors is the retirement of the Netherlands’ most recent great hope for a Dutch cyclist to win the Tour de France. Tom Dumoulin, whose soaring hopes of becoming the first Netherlander since Joop to actually take the maillot jaune were somehow snatched away by Geraint Thomas, pedaled off into the proverbial sunset, leaving meager prospects of a breakthrough win on the horizon. Since Doom’s runner-up in 2018, we saw Steven Kruijswijk rise to third overall, but now 35, the almost-Giro winner isn’t likely to top that result. Last year’s top results were late-career Bauke Mollema in 25th overall and classics specialist van Baarle in 32nd place. Gijs Leemreize had a nice Giro for a 22-year-old, so there is at least one rider to watch. And of course Dutch fans can root on Jumbo while also marveling at guys like van der Poel and rationalizing the lack of a Tour winner thusly. Or could, if a Belgian hadn’t just won the Vuelta. Talk about a dark cloud on an otherwise sunny day...
5. Kits Ranking!
As you could tell from the Bahrain entry, some of these are more fun to sort out than others, and Jumbo’s history is as colorful as they come, if you’re being literal. This is, after all, the team of Rabo, Blanco, and even earlier squads like Kwantum and Superconfex, a lineage of kit designs that spans the color spectrum. I will limit this to the 2000s, out of fairness to the other teams, but even in this time there is much to love.
In reverse order, as usual...
2022-23: Not Mellow Yellow
This photo from 2022 shows what their kit was then, and with the exception of that sponsor in the green oval, it’s visually the same for this season. I’m sure their PR team would point out lots of subtle differences, but feel free to try and spot them.
2022 Masterpiece Edition
This will go down as one of the most distinctive special Tour de France kits in history. While I could watch this video a thousand times and still not fully understand how the final product celebrates the works of Rembrant, Van Gogh and Vermeer, I don’t care. Some cultural power plays, however shameless, just land, and if you think I am going to argue with digitally distilling the brushstrokes of these three geniuses into a bike jersey, you don’t know me very well.
2021: Classic Jumbo?
I guess you could say this is their standard issue, a bit more black-accented than the current one above.
2021 Tour edition “Rapid Rebel”
I’m not entirely sure what we are supposed to make of their 2021 Tour kit — it’s called the “rapid rebel” (insert extreme eye roll) but it could pass for a celebration of textile making? Whatever the case, it was pretty slick. The Belgian alternative offering isn’t too hard on the eyes either.
2019-20: Spotted Yellow
Pictured is Antoinette de Jongh, an Olympic speedskater, showing off the first Jumbo-Visma pairing, identical to the cycling kit, or should I say, that is the cycling kit. And a reminder that the sponsor is into the Netherlands’ other non-soccer-related sports obsession.
2018: Two-tone trash
Inspired by the accounting department’s appreciation for using the fewest possible colors.
2017: White shoulders
Yep... white shoulders. And powerballs. The preceding edition is basically the same with a tiny bit less white.
2014: Blinded By the Belkin
I get how having no name for a year made them want to go so bright they could be spotted by satellite images.
Every generic cycling clothing maker has a no-name jersey that looks a lot like this.
The Rabo Years!
Just one classic offering here, rather than parsing all the Rabo versions, but they usually followed the same set of colors and didn’t go too wild with patterns. Even their assault vehicle fell in line.
Time to vote!
When did Jumbo/Rabo/Belkin kits peak?
This poll is closed
2022-23: Yellow Fellow
2021 Bit More Black
2021 Tour Rapid Rebel
2019-20: Spotted Yellow
2017: whiter shoulders
2014: Blinded By the Belkin