• Steven Kruijswijk celebrates his third place on general classification after crossing the finish line of Stage 20 of the 106th edition of the Tour de France. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Thanks to massive pulls from Kiwi George Bennett and Belgian Laurens De Plus, Jumbo-Visma rides Steven Kruijswijk back into the top three to claim his first Grand Tour podium of pro career.
By
Cycling Central

28 Jul 2019 - 10:54 AM  UPDATED 28 Jul 2019 - 11:04 AM

A day after falling to fourth overall on a halted penultimate stage due to hailstorms and landslides, Dutch veteran Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) is all set to achieve his long-awaited Grand Tour podium when the Tour de France concludes on the final stage along the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday.

After two straight near misses last year, including a fifth on GC at the Tour and a fourth at the Vuelta a Espana a month later, the 32-year-old Dutchman should wrap up third-place behind last year's winner Geraint Thomas and his Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal, who will become the first Colombian to win the Tour in its 106-year history.

“This is what I came for and wanted to achieve. We have done everything and it worked out. I think I can be very proud of that”, Kruijswijk explained. “I had to put in an extreme effort. I was close to the podium a few times before.

"I have always kept working hard and always continued to fight. And the team has always believed in me. The fact that it has worked out now can’t be described with words."

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With Stage 20 shortened to 59 kilometres from its originally planned 130, the 2011 Tour de Suisse stage winner was at risk of missing out once again after spending nearly the entire race inside the top three.

However, Herculean efforts from team-mates George Bennett (NZL) and Lauren De Plus (BEL) proved invaluable as Jumbo-Visma managed to drive Kruijswijk up the 33km climb toward the summit finish atop Val Thorens.

Kruijswijk's eighth-place result on the stage won by 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) helped stave off any threats to his final podium result on GC.

"The team delivered a tremendous job today," he said. "We knew we had to go all in, so we took the initiative from the start of the climb. The pace of George and especially Laurens was so high that everyone was riding at their limits. That was good for me.

"I had expected that Alaphilippe would face difficulties, but I also had to keep an eye on Buchmann," Kruijswijk continued. "I kept fighting all the way to the finish and I just had to finish it off for the boys. I am really happy that it worked out.”

The podium is one of several standout results for the Dutch-registered WorldTour team, which opened the 106th edition of Le Tour with an unexpected stage win from Mike Teunissen (NED) to take the first yellow jersey, immediately followed by a team time trial victory - both in Brussels.

Two more stage wins followed, including Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen's Stage 7 victory in Chalon-sur-Saone and Belgian Wout van Aert's win on Stage 10 before crashing out three days later in the individual time trial.

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Van Aert was not the only Jumbo rider hitting the deck. Bennett suffered from two dramatic crashed on Stage 18 but battered and bruised, the 29-year-old Kiwi pledged to plow onward to Paris in support of his team.

“This is great for Steven and the team. We have always believed in the podium and we have achieved what we came for as a team," said Bennett, winner of the 2017 Amgen Tour of California.

"With four stage wins and the podium, it has been a great Tour and it’s not even over yet. Winning with Dylan in Paris would really be the icing on the cake.”