EVENT | Tour de France
Tour de France title challengers Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard of Jumbo Visma believe their team's two-leader strategy can finally deliver cycling's most treasured title after consecutive narrow defeats.
Roglic and Vingegaard came second to arch-rival Tadej Pogacar in 2020 and 2021 respectively, but insisted Wednesday that the 23-year-old Slovenian can be beaten by their united front.
"As long as we work together, doing as good as possible together, we believe that we can beat him," Roglic said two days before the 109th edition of the 21-day race starts with three stages in Denmark.
Roglic pulled out in week one last year after a fall and on Wednesday denied feeling any threat from his junior partner Vingegaard who shone in his absence.
"We make each other stronger. When you have strong individuals around, the whole team gets stronger," said the 32-year-old triple Vuelta a Espana winner.
Vingegaard, a modest former fish-factory worker, said he and Roglic enjoyed going for a beer together.
"Primoz and I are good friends also out of bike racing," said the 25-year-old who was born and raised in the far north of Denmark in the small community of Hillerslev.
"But it is totally different from last year. Last year I came to the Tour as a helper.
"And now I am one of the leaders of the biggest race in the world," said the Dane, who finished second on both the Criterium du Dauphine and the Tirreno Adriatico stage races in the build-up to the Tour.
Both Roglic and Vingegaard spoke about it being crucial to survive the first week, although team boss Merijn Zeeman took issue with that notion.
"I don't like the term surviving because we are not afraid. We stay on the bike and stay upfront," Zeeman said of Jumbo's tendency to race from the front.
"Surviving sounds like we are not sleeping at night because we are afraid of the first week."
He described the decision to head up the team with two strong lead riders as the best tactically.
"They are both in really, really good shape and close to each other," Zeeman said of his two leaders.
"In the best scenario, both of them are better than Pogacar. But there is a strong possibility that is not going to happen.
"It's not a secret that Pogacar is the big favourite," he admitted.
"We need everybody to be at his top level and we definitely need a two-leader strategy.
All riders on the Tour must return a negative Covid test by today as the virus continues to thrive with social distancing relaxed.
Later on Wednesday the Tour de France teams are due to parade in central Copenhagen with excitement building towards Friday's Grand Depart with a 13km downtown individual time-trial.