He may be quitting the team soon, but Mike Teunissen could not have hoped for a better ‘leaving present’ from current squad Jumbo-Visma as the Dutchman inherited the Vuelta a España lead from teammate Robert Gesink during stage 2 in Utrecht.
The Dutch racer insisted that even if he took fourth in Saturday’s stage 2 sprint, after receiving team leader Primož Roglič’s permission in the final kilometre to try his luck, he has no intention of letting his Vuelta lead have precedence over Roglič’s GC options.
Already the leader of the Tour de France in 2019 in the first week of the race, Teunissen said that his main mission was to protect the Slovenian in the Vuelta, and he echoed Gesink’s words on Friday evening by saying their decision to put him in the red jersey was one he felt was “special and a sign of the team’s confidence in me.”
The team’s decision was arguably an even more notable one than with Gesink given that Teunissen is leaving Jumbo-Visma at the end of the season for another squad, Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux.
As Teunissen put it, he’s moving on because Jumbo-Visma “has been going better than I have been in the last years” and he praised both his current team for being “one of the best teams in the world, if not the best” and his new squad for “growing in some ways as Jumbo have done already.”
“To get this jersey is something out of the blue,” Teunissen, fourth in the bunch sprint at Utrecht, told reporters. “To hear that they wanted me to get in the lead and to feel that level of confidence in me is quite special.”
However, while not quite ruling out going for another sprint on Sunday in Breda, wryly answering “ask the team!” when that possibility was raised, Teunissen insisted that Roglič’s interests came first.
“Jokes apart, my task is to keep Primož out of the wind, and when I got a bit of room to go for it, in the last kilometre he told me it was ok to try to sprint.”
“For now, it’s not a goal, although maybe later on in the Vuelta.”
Further down the line, Teunissen he said that if he was leaving Jumbo-Visma it was with the hope that he would have the chance to take part in races like the Tour and the Classics, races where Jumbo’s recent level of success had increasingly limited his options on participation.
“I’m not 29, I’m at the point of my career where I have to make choices about what I’d like to do,” Teunissen said.
“But for now, I’m focussed on this Vuelta, not looking forwards to next year. We’ll get through this race and then we’ll see.”