LOT TONL : SMAL L BUDGET, BIG HEARTS
All the talk before the Tour de France was of how Movistar might use their strength in depth to undermine Team Sky. The Spanish team went to the Tour with three possible leaders - Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde. If they could be persuaded to work cohesively (no small task), maybe they could put pressure on the British team. In the end, Movistar comparatively flopped and LottoNL-Jumbo were the only team to really try to beat Sky tactically. Tom Dumoulin, Sunweb’s runner-up, tried to match them physically, but LottoNL were acutely aware of their strengths and used them very cleverly.
First off, they made the Tour a success when Dylan Groenewegen won two sprint stages. Then they used their second-strongest rider, Steven Kruijswijk, as an effective mountain decoy while their strongest, Primo Roglic, marked the other favourites. Nowhere was this more effective than on the Alpe d’Huez stage, where Kruijswijk attacked a long way out and built a six-minute lead, enough to put him into the virtual race lead. He was only caught towards the top of the Alpe, and Roglic was still with the leaders. Then, at Laruns in the Pyrenees, the Dutch team worked very hard and put Roglic into a position to both win the stage and move into third overall, though he faded to fourth in the time trial. With a small budget, LottoNL punched well above their weight at the Tour and were the most exciting team in the race.