Merijn Zeeman has led Jumbo-Visma to tremendous success this year. But now comes a difficult task, how will the team improve, or how will the team manage the expectations of a team that has achieved something almost impossible to replicate in 2024.
"We want to send our younger talents to the Giro. Top ten would be very nice, but the overall victory is not realistic with those young boys," Zeeman said in the Met Open Vizier podcast. "This year we were able to win the three Grand Tours because we separated Primoz and Jonas. In itself it was not a goal to win the three Grand Tours. I hope to be able to replace Primoz, but there is no ready-made substitute. Without Primoz there are fewer difficult conversations, discussions and choices in the coaching group. He was so demanding that he lifted the team to a higher level."
"Every now and then you have to do something crazy" - Wout van Aert prepared for participation in Colombia at the Giro del Rigo
As Richard Plugge had said previously, there is not yet a decision on whether Wout van Aert will race the Giro d'Italia, but that possibility is quite likely. The Dutch team is likely to send a team with little pressure to Italy, and then a block around Jonas Vingegaard who will try to go for his third Tour de France win.
"The more successful the season, the more uncertain I become that things would go well next year," Zeeman shares. After winning all three Grand Tours and "playing" with the Vuelta a Espana competition, the DS wants to make sure no-one in the team let's off the steam just because they were above the competition this year. "For this we will have to make further selections and we must ensure that there is competition from below, that Jonas does not feel comfortable and that he can lose his place if he performs poorly."
"For the time being I cannot name any hard objectives, but the structural goal of this team is that we want to write sports history," he said of an initial idea for the upcoming season. Riders are set to gather later this month. "This means that we are part of famous sports teams in the history of sports. You do this not only through victories, but also through the way you do something special that excites sports fans. 2024 is part of that."
To conclude, Zeeman tells a story of earlier this spring when Roglic and Remco Evenepoel were training for the Giro d'Italia in the same place: "It's always a hassle at the training camps, when you meet other teams. You can sit with two or three teams at the top of Teide. Evenepoel was also there for the Giro and then it was mental warfare. He tries to impress us, we try to impress him. Not a word is said to each other. Then the Giro has already started."