The decision on who was to win the Vuelta a Espana was a tricky one, that fed the narrative over the final days of this year's Vuelta a Espana. That was up to the riders mostly however, as DS Merijn Zeeman says that he did not give orders for the riders to protect anyone in specific.
"It was the goal, but to say that would have been too much of a boast. And not really humble. It still has to subside a little bit this winter," Zeeman told the Het Wiel podcast regarding the goal of winning all three Grand Tours. "When the Giro is finished, you are already in full preparation of the Tour. It all happens so quickly, but once the season is over, the realization sinks in. It's absurd, what happened this year."
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After winning the Giro and Tour, the team switched their goals to the Vuelta a Espana. "The Vuelta was our big goal of the season finale, we sent our best imaginable team there. Other teams spread out more, which makes a big difference." This focus and incredibly strong lineup made a real difference on the road, in the mountains the team was unmatched, and took the entire final podium in the overall classification.
"The greatest fun is having the motivation to do something better with a group of people. There's a good chance that next year we won't have the success we had this year, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still fun to do this," he says when asked about goals for the upcoming year. "That is my biggest motivation to do this work. Roubaix and Flanders are certainly still very high on the list, that was, is and remains a very big goal."
As for the decision on who would win the Vuelta, after Sepp Kuss slowly lost time to Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic since stage 6 where he won from the breakaway, Zeeman says that he did not have to give orders for the riders to protect anyone in specific, and there there was consensus on how to act.
"It is good practice that you keep things there that you say in the dressing room. I also do that. Above all, I am happy that everyone was on the same page and gave each other the favor, which also did justice to the principle that no one is bigger than the team."