Tiesj Benoot's explosive statement on Visma's Tour de France: "No-one from the team dares to bet money on the fact that Jonas will make it to the podium"

Team Visma | Lease a Bike are heading to the Tour de France with a clear leader and plan: Jonas Vingegaard. But from within the team there is no certainty that neither Vingegaard or Wout van Aert are capable of doing what they've done in the past, and this was said by teammate Tiesj Benoot himself.

"Wout has made progress in recent weeks, but he is not at the level of last year and certainly not at the level of two years ago," Benoot said in an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws. "I find it very difficult to assess them myself. When we train together on altitude training, it is not racing like during a mountain stage in the Tour. It is not that we test each other to see who is the best." Benoot joined the duo after the Criterium du Dauphiné, whilst Vingegaard and Van Aert have spent three weeks at altitude in Tignes trying to build as much form as possible ahead of the Tour.

How successful that work was is relatively unknown; except for the team staff. A lot is being said of both Visma and UAE playing the 'underdog' card ahead of the Tour so as to get pressure on their rival teams, however Benoot sticks his neck out and assures that is not the case: "I deny that formally and with one hundred percent certainty. If you say you're good, they think you're arrogant or have a big neck."

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"If you say you are the underdog and the favourites are riding elsewhere, they think you are throwing sand or playing hide and seek... You don't believe that we as a team would deliberately throw fog, do you?" Sure enough UAE have done so, with Joxean Matxín stating Vingegaard was the favourite for the Tour de France over two weeks ago when the Dane's presence was far from even being assured, whilst UAE had almost all pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Benoot for his part seems to be on the right track for the Tour where he will be an important domestique, mainly in the hilly and mountainous stages. But in the training camp he could not fully access the level of his teammates:

"Moreover, when Jonas completes an interval of three times ten minutes at full speed, I do not see him doing it. I know what they look like, but I dare not predict how good they are. Neither do Wout and Jonas themselves. Every athlete who comes back from an injury is uncertain. Only after the first weekend will we be able to assess how good they are."

But the Belgian does not hold back on his words and, if he is to be believed, has given a rather realistic and brutal insight into the team's outlook of the upcoming race. "Jonas is riding the Tour because the team management thinks there is a chance that he can be top. But I am one hundred percent sure that no-one from the team dares to bet money on the fact that Jonas will make it to the podium," he says.

Although completely understandable, it shines a light into the present worries that the defending champion may not have been able to prepare well enough for the Tour after suffering brutal injuries in a crash at Itzulia Basque Country. "What they hope for, but do not know. Suppose Tiesj Benoot had eight weeks of training to prepare, he would never make it to the Tour selection. Jonas and Wout can do that because they have so much talent and can be good very quickly."

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