Giro Next Gen: Team spirit, self-confidence and strong communication lead to eternal pink glory
With Johannes Staune-Mittet, the Jumbo-Visma's Development Team won the Giro Next Gen, following in the footsteps of the WorldTour squad with Primoz Roglic. Staune-Mittet, Tijmen Graat and sports director Robert Wagner reflect on a heroic week.
The development team debuted at this year's Tour of Italy for riders up to 23. "We felt we were ready this year. The race is highly regarded, and the riders specifically asked us to include it in our programme", sports director Wagner says. "We made the Giro one of our main goals and set out a route that would lead to the overall victory, with Johannes and Tijmen leading the way."
The race began with a time trial of almost 10 kilometres in and around the northern Italian town of Aglié. "The course was flat. I rode one of my better races against the clock that day", Staune-Mittet says of his eighth-place finish in the overture. "Loe van Belle and Per Strand Hagenes also rode well. That put us right in the top of the standings. It gave us a confidence boost."
After two treacherous stages, day four had the finish on the mythical Stelvio. "I had never climbed above 1,500 metres in a race before", Graat says. "Seeing how my body would react to climbs above two thousand metres was exciting, but I think I passed the test."
"I had never climbed above 1,500 metres in a race before"
Wagner explains the plan for Staune-Mittet, Graat, Strand Hagenes, Van Belle and Menno Huising. "We always rode this stage at the front of the peloton. The intention was to put Per in the breakaway of the day so that he could go all out for Johannes and Tijmen later on. It worked. Menno also rode with the better riders well into the final. The Stelvio never lies. The best always come out on top."
Wagner is proud that Staune-Mittet turned out to be that best rider. The Norwegian describes how the day unfolded from his perspective. "The whole stage, I felt I was in the right place. There were no means to consult with the sports directors. During the race, I told Tijmen that I felt excellent. The team had put us in a good position for the decisive part of the climb, and it was up to us to finish it off. I didn't think too much and rode on instinct. It was my best day ever on the bike. I know only too well how special it is to win on such a heroic climb."
Staune-Mittet took the stage win and the pink leader's jersey. This changed the dynamics of the race. "Suddenly, we had to control and defend. Winning the jersey is one thing, but defending it is just as difficult", Graat says. Wagner: "Controlling the race was definitely not easy. There's not much you can do from the team car without communication. On top of that, 35 teams were riding with five riders each last week. It's remarkable how our guys communicated with each other during the race and knew exactly what to do and what not to do."
"The team rode so strongly. As a result, I never felt cornered for a moment in the days after the Stelvio", says Staune-Mittet, referring to stages five and six. Stage seven was also very tough, with over four thousand metres of climbing. Wagner: "On the penultimate day, that was the moment in the race when we had to be on our guard. But Johannes was so confident. He was mentally solid last week. His performance on the Stelvio had strengthened him so much that he knew he could take the overall win. Nevertheless, you always need to remain vigilant."
"The team rode so strongly"
Staune-Mittet extended his lead in a man-to-man battle on the seventh stage. "After that day, we were confident that our hard work would be rewarded", a proud Graat says.
In addition to the overall victory, Staune-Mittet also won the mountain jersey. And Team Jumbo-Visma won the team classification. Wagner: "This was not a goal, but it is a nice reflection of the past week. The team has worked hard. To see all five of them on the podium together was a great moment. They worked hard together to achieve this. My colleague Sierk-Jan de Haan and I are extremely proud."
The last words are for the winner. "It's wonderful to go home with the pink jersey. It really feels like a victory for all of us. The team spirit in our squad last week was magical. I will remember this week for the rest of my life. Following Primoz's victory in May, we created history in June by competing in and winning the Giro Next Gen for the first time in team history", concludes Staune-Mittet, who will be part of the 2024 Team Jumbo-Visma WorldTour team.