Jumbo-Visma men’s team will celebrate their hugely-successful season when they hold their team presentation in Amsterdam on Thursday, their outstanding year confirmed by topping the UCI team rankings in 2022 and winning 48 races.
Jonas Vingegaard will be celebrated as their first Tour de France winner, Wout van Aert, the natural leader of the Classics squad, won the green points jersey, while Primož Roglič represents the team’s leader in resilience and determination.
They are the headline indicators of Jumbo-Visma’s success but there are also others. The transformation of Christophe Laporte, the development of young sprinter Olav Kooij and Tobias Foss’ surprise time trial world title all offer another yardstick, highlighting how Jumbo-Visma helps its riders improve way beyond their previous best.
Laporte had shown flashes of his talent and ambition during his eight years at Cofidis. He won a number of races, including the 2018 Tro Bro Leon, confirming he clearly had a fast finish and ability in the Classics.
He was a valued rider at Cofidis but also clearly under performed despite being personally ambitious.
“At the start of the year, I didn’t speak English and for sure I didn’t expect all this success but now I’m very happy I joined Jumbo-Visma,” Laporte tells Cyclingnews and Velonews, his English having improved as much as his results in his first season.
“I came to this team to be better. I made a lot more sacrifices, did more training camps away from home, improved my nutrition and lots more. It was a big step up but everything worked out well.”
Laporte started on his steep learning curve when he first pulled on Jumbo-Visma’s jersey but the results came immediately.
At Paris-Nice he lead home Roglič and Van Aert after their stunning three-rider late attack. In the Classics, he finished finished arm in arm with Van Aert as they dominated E3 Saxo Bank Classic and then he was only beaten by Biniam Girmay at Gent-Wevelgem. At the Tour de France, Laporte won the sprint in Cahors on stage 20 after riding for Vingegaard all race. Then at the World Championships, he took his new-found ability to the French national team and beat Michael Matthews (Australia) and Van Aert (Belgium) to win the sprint for the silver medal behind Remco Evenepoel (Belgium).
During 2021, when Jumbo-Visma was scouting for riders to bolster their Classics squad and give Van Aert more support in the big moments of the biggest one-day races, Laporte was the ideal candidate.
There were language barriers and Laporte still wanted to have chances to win races but Jumbo-Visma were ready to embrace that principle as part of their strategy to support Van Aert.
“I didn’t want to finish my career without trying this change,” Laporte says.
“I didn’t do it because the French teams are bad. I think it’s just good to see things from another point of view. By moving to a new, international team it takes you out of your comfort zone. You have to make sacrifices.
“It’s very important for me to give my best and to do that I need to have the best technical support. I think everybody knows that Jumbo-Visma is one of the best teams in the world, so for me it was the best choice.”
Making sacrifices, enjoying the reward
Laporte’s extra sacrifices included far more time away from home at team-funded and fully-supported altitude training camps.
“I normally start racing early but this year I started later because we did a training camp in Tenerife for three weeks in February,” he explains.
“I’d done an altitude camp with Cofidis but only for 12 days and it didn’t have much effect. Three weeks was very good. I’ve always felt good after one week of a training camp and with full support I felt the benefits even more. I made my season debut at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and I felt really good, indeed, I almost won.
“When you’re with your new teammates for three weeks at altitude and then at other moments, it helps you make friends and come together as a team. It was the same before the Tour de France. In the summer I was with my teammates more than I was with my family but in the end it was worth it.”
Laporte secured a place in the Tour de France team in his first year with Jumbo-Visma, earning one of the eight spots ahead of the likes of Dutch rider Mike Teunissen, who had worn the yellow jersey in 2019 by winning the opening stage in Brussels, and then Jumbo-Visma won the team time trial.
Laporte played a key domestique role at the Tour, working for Van Aert in the sprints and protecting Vingegaard as he emerged as an overall contender.
When his work was done, he got a chance on stage 19 and took it with both hands, surging away on the uphill finish to win in Cahors and give Jumbo-Visma their fifth stage win. The day after, van Aert won the time trial stage and Vingegaard sealed overall victory to complete Jumbo-Visma’s hugely-successful Tour de France.
“It was an almost perfect Tour for the team and I’m proud to have been part of it,” Laporte says, his shyness replaced by pride and his wide smile.
“I think it’ll be almost impossible to do better and it’ll be really hard to do the same again. We have to enjoy it and then try again in 2023. There were a lot of good moments for me personally. Winning a stage in the Tour is a big thing for everyone and especially a French guy. Then we had the success as a team and it was also about the way we won.
“We’d planned the attack on the finale of the stage to Calais so that Wout could win. Then the stage to Col du Glandon, when Jonas won and took the yellow jersey, was a huge day. Then on Hautacam, he and Wout finished it off after we all worked hard. There were a lot of good moments for the team, which are now special memories.”
Laporte reveals that Jumbo-Visma carefully plan everything they do, including how they take on the likes of Tadej Pogačar to win the Tour de France.
“Before the Tour I thought it’d be very hard to beat him because he’s so good but planning was a big part of the success,” Laporte explains.
“Of course we need a guy like Wout, Primož and Jonas to finish it off but they did it. We were very focused on each stage and planned things in detail, using the strength of the team to put riders in attacks on key stages so that we could then put Pogačar and UAE Team Emirates under pressure.”
Learning from Van Aert but staying ambitious
Laporte is arguably Van Aert’s understudy at Jumbo-Visma. He does not have the charisma and star status of the Belgian but is very similar as a rider. The two seem to work well together after just one season.
Laporte is ambitious but sees the benefits of riding alongside Van Aert at Jumbo-Visma.
“I’ve learnt a lot from Wout because he is one of the best riders in the world,” he says with natural admiration.
“During the races he’s very aggressive and never wants to wait for the others to attack him. He can read a race well, know how to win and how we can win together as a team.
“He is also very open to other riders doing well, even in the Classics. If you attack and get away, he’s happy for you and lets you race. You always want to race with leaders like that and I want to be up there to help him too.
“We showed this year that it’s better to have the numbers up front in the big Classic when the race really explodes. We can play with our rivals, like QuickStep did in the past. It worked out very well for us this year.”
In 2023 Laporte will have Paris-Roubaix winner Dylan van Baarle as a new teammate in the Classics squad after his move from Ineos Grenadiers, with Jan Tratnik, Attila Valter, Wilco Kelderman and talented young British rider Thomas Gloag also joining Jumbo-Visma.
Van Baarle will massively strengthen the Classics squad and perhaps push Laporte down the hierarchy but he remains naturally ambitious.
“I want to win a Classic,” he says boldly, perhaps another characteristic bolstered by a year at Jumbo-Visma. “I was close this year but I didn’t win. I’ve already achieved my other goal by winning a stage at the Tour, so I’d like to win a Classic too.
“If I have a choice I’d like to win Paris-Roubaix. I know that Wout starts Paris-Roubaix as our team leader. That’s logical and right but I have to be ready to take my opportunities.
“Paris-Roubaix is a very open race, anything can happen and it is hard to control. Who knows, perhaps I’ll get my chance. The biggest thing I’ve learnt at Jumbo-Visma is not to limit my ambitions.”