“But just a big bag of money is not enough”

Tiesj Benoot, Wout van Aert, Jonas Vingegaard and Nathan Van Hooydonck from the successful Jumbo-Visma team. Ton van Veen from Jumbo: ‘The Pogacar team has more money, but we win the Tour.’Image Getty Images

When all the riders had safely reached the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday evening and all the tributes and formalities were over, the Jumbo-Visma team gathered at the Dutch ambassador’s residence. In the place where the feel-good movie untouchables was largely occupied, the team has been together for years after the three-week cycling festival.

But there has never been more to celebrate than now. The yellow jersey for the general classification, the green jersey for the best sprinter and the dotted jersey for the mountain king: all important prizes this year went to the yellow-black cycling formation Jumbo-Visma.

Robert van der Wallen also raised his glass in Paris. With his now-sold company BrandLoyalty, the entrepreneur was a key sponsor of the cycling and skating team from 2014 to 2018. Today, the ‘L’ of Van der Wallen’s new company L founders of loyalty adorns the back of the Jumbo-Visma outfit, and he is a member of the board.

‘Not a bought success’

De Brabander Van der Wallen is according to the magazine Quote, billionaire, as it also applies to the Jumbo family Van Eerd. And then a logical thought: Jumbo-Visma has just bought all the jerseys won in the Tour together. “But this is not a bought success,” argues Van der Wallen. “When we came in, we had the lowest budget of all. And now we still don’t have the biggest wallet. This success has been achieved on the basis of a good vision, a lot of hard work and putting the right people in the right place.”

Ton van Veen, chairman of the board of the Jumbo-Visma team on behalf of Jumbo, also says: “A big bag of money alone is not enough for success at the very highest level. Pogacar’s team has more money, but we win the Tour. It is a sum of many small things that help: professional management from the top, a very good staff, sophisticated nutrition and so on.”

It is true that there are teams in the cycling field with a greater consumption pattern. Ineos, the team of former Tour winners Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal, is by far the richest team with an annual budget of around 50 million euros. And the UAE, which has cycling prodigy Tadej Pogacar on contract, could therefore spend more than Jumbo-Visma’s estimated 25 to 30 million euros.

Highly paid

The exact amounts in cycling usually remain a bit shady. But if we are to believe lists in the international media, the highest salaries are not paid in the Netherlands. The Flemish all-rounder Wout van Aert is estimated to have an annual salary of 2.2 million and would therefore be number eight on the list of the highest paid riders in the world. Two-time Tour winner Pogacar is reportedly number 1 with €6 million.

Tour winner Jonas Vingegaard is not yet an absolute big earner. But it does not seem unrealistic if the Dane, who is still in prison until 2024, confidently asks for a significant average salary increase at his next appraisal interview. And Van Aert can also have his manager call the team management. The Fleming gives Jumbo in the growth market Belgium an incredible amount of brand awareness.

Of course, all that money has to come from somewhere. Who exactly contributes how much to the cycling and skating team is a secret. “We don’t make any announcements about it,” says spokesman Milan Vaessen for the software company Visma, for example. Ton van Veen will only say that the Jumbo contribution to ice skating and cycling runs into ‘double-digit millions’, i.e. more than 10 million euros.

Jumbo-Visma wants to continue growing in the coming years, and that includes an even higher budget. A part must come from the main sponsors. “On the other hand, with this success we are also becoming more and more attractive to other parties,” says Van Veen. “Bicycle and clothing suppliers, sub-sponsors: they will be part of this success. It also generates extra euros.”

Dutch or European team?

Bringing the yellow jersey to Paris was from the start a dream for the founders of the Jumbo-Visma success. The fact that it has now succeeded with a friendly, modest, but not overly flamboyant Dane and not with an otherwise equally modest Dutch star like Tom Dumoulin, does not mean anything to Visma, says the spokesperson there. “Definitely not. We are a European company and we increasingly see Jumbo-Visma as a European team. Our employees in Denmark have fully embraced Jonas Vingegaard’s success, which is fantastic to see.”

For Jumbo, which still makes its money mainly in the Netherlands, the situation is somewhat different, Van Veen acknowledges. “Of course we would love to see a Dutchman win the Tour. But if you look at the last three weeks: the newspapers are full of Jumbo-Visma, everyone loves how we are dominating the Tour. And we are the first Dutch team since 1980 to win yellow, which was then TI-Raleigh with Zoetemelk. That’s good, isn’t it? We’d rather be first with a Dane than with a Dutchman in tenth place.”

However, there has been criticism in recent weeks. With Steven Kruijswijk, who has since dropped out, only one person was appointed who can sing Wilhelmus verbatim, so did Robert van der Wallen. “But the technical management gets one hundred percent freedom in this. At the end of the day, it’s all about being successful. I am also supervisory director at PSV. It doesn’t matter to me whether a foreigner or a Dutchman shoots the ball in.”

Orange color on the cheeks

Jumbo-Visma will never lose its Dutch character, predicts Van der Wallen. The loss of the soon-to-be-retired Dumoulin is compensated by Dylan van Baarle and Wilco Kelderman. This keeps the plow orange color on the cheeks. However, the most imaginative Dutch cyclist has been in Belgian service for years. We are of course talking about Mathieu van der Poel.

Shouldn’t Jumbo-Visma do everything it can to fish him in? A Van der Poel cardboard box at the entrance to the supermarket that makes the average bike fan happy. “That won’t happen because we have Van Aert,” Van der Wallen points out the presence of Van der Poel’s biggest sporting rival. “And we are very happy with Wout. He is Flemish, but he has a Dutch character. So it fits very well.”

Where Visma sponsors skating and cycling to increase brand awareness, that goal has long been achieved at Jumbo. The company also just likes the two sports a lot, says Van Veen. “And we’re happy to stay committed to what the team stands for: developing talent, winning together. Calculating on a spreadsheet if you’re going to make back all the millions you put into it, that’s very difficult. But we also just love sport. That love and trade go hand in hand in this matter.”

We know Jumbo, but Visma?

Jumbo-Visma, it is now an established name. And we all know Jumbo, but Visma? That company doesn’t ring a bell with everyone, even though it’s been on the uniforms of skaters and cyclists for about four years.

“We are a kind of cooperative of different software companies, our head office is in Norway,” explains Visma spokesman Milan Vaessen. “We are a true European company, active in Scandinavia, Benelux, Eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal. Cycling and the Tour de France therefore suit us very well. The sponsorship helps us increase our brand awareness. We are very happy with how things are going now .”

Let me explain: Visma could just supply the software with which your pay slip is drawn up or your absence is registered. “And at Jumbo-Visma we also help perfect the software. So Wout van Aert can digitally renew his contract at a training camp abroad, to name just a few. We have also developed an algorithm that calculates how many calories our cyclists need after a particular race. It takes into account the weather, how fast you were driving, and so on.”

According to Vaessen, the overwhelming Tour success has been ‘seen and felt by the entire organisation’. Can all Visma employees count on a piece of cake with a yellow marzipan layer on Monday morning? “Haha, no idea. But we’re definitely going to celebrate.”

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