"We will never throw in the towel!" - Merijn Zeeman fully believes in Jonas Vingegaard for Tour de France

Visma | Lease a Bike was one of the first teams to announce its selection for the Tour de France 2024. And it was the most anticipated one as everyone was curious whether Jonas Vingegaard would be included. Now it's clear the Dane will attempt to complete a hat-trick even though his form is still up in the air.

Sports director Merijn Zeeman reveals that the selection was locked in only in the week before the Grande Départ in an interview for WielerFlits. "Tuesday and Wednesday. So really recently. After his fall, Wout had already indicated at an earlier stage that he would like to ride the Tour. That was a huge boost for us. He just had to be at such a level that he could also be of value in the Tour. If you start at 90%, you should not expect to compete for Olympic gold after the Tour. Two weeks ago we found out: Wout will be fine."

From his words, it's clear the team was considering multiple options. One such involved the team's lead sprinter. "I was in contact with Olav Kooij until the last minute. We had to make sure he was ready for a possible participation. If Jonas had not gone, Olav would have been his replacement. We finally made that decision in the last days."

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Back to Jonas Vingegaard, it is clear the team had to wait for a long time before it was clear whether his start at Tour is even a possibility: "He made progress step by step and hour by hour, eventually allowing him to travel to Tignes at the end of May. We have always been in the dark: what level is still feasible for him? Logically, that had dropped very far due to his injuries. Every week we estimated, based on expectations, whether there was a chance that Jonas would make it to the Tour or not. In recent weeks we clearly saw that he was getting fit."

The start of the race will be very difficult. Is there a plan B in case Vingegaard can't follow the best? "Whatever the situation, we will never throw in the towel. Of course you have to make a balance. If you are behind, you will also have to think about where you can get that time back. Don't forget that the start of the previous two Tours were tailor-made for Tadej Pogacar. That is now the case again. He has a clear advantage in the early stages."

"Only in the previous two editions was this reversed as the Tour progressed. Especially this year's edition that ends with the time trial in Nice, only then will the prizes be distributed. The final week is grueling and the last weekend is extremely difficult. No Tour rider can celebrate too early this year. We are going to France to fight for three weeks. That's what you can count on!"

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