Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Madiot has angrily hit back at comments made by his Jumbo-Visma counterpart Richard Plugge who – while defending his team from the doping accusations that have hovered since Jonas Vingegaard all but sealed his second consecutive Tour de France win earlier this week – sensationally claimed that he saw riders from a French team drinking “large beers” during the race’s second rest day.
Speaking to LÉquipe, Jumbo-Visma’s managing director Plugge responded to the suspicions that have plagued the Dutch squad following yellow jersey Vingegaard’s crushingly dominant performance in Tuesday’s time trial, where the Dane beat closest rival Tadej Pogačar by 1.38 and almost everyone else, including teammate Wout van Aert, by at least 2.51 over 22 kilometres.
Plugge argued that, by opening their doors to documentary crews from Netflix and Amazon, the Dutch team are transparent about their methods, and that his leader Vingegaard “refuses to use Ketones” – the energy supplements which are prohibited by the Movement for Credible Cycling group (MPCC), of which Jumbo-Visma is not a member, but not banned by the UCI – and that he also “does not even like taking paracetamol”.
In the interview, Plugge also suggested that his team’s dominant performance at the Tour over the past two years is down to their more professional approach to the sport, compared to some of their rivals.
“We look around us to see what the others do. For example, we were with a French team in our hotel on the rest day. We could see the riders drinking large beers,” Plugge said.
Only one other French squad, Groupama-FDJ, whose Tour line-up includes Thibaut Pinot, David Gaudu, Stefan Küng, and French champion Valentin Madouas, was staying in the same hotel as Jumbo-Visma on the race’s second rest day.
The Jumbo-Visma CEO continued: “Alcohol is poison, and when you are already tired, it’ll make you even more fatigued. At the start of the last week of the Tour, which is the most important, you have to be careful what you eat and drink.
“In our team nobody drinks alcohol, because that breaks you and even those who aren’t riders shouldn’t drink it.
“We open our doors, answer all the questions, but you have to look at the other side as well. Because that explains part of the differences, not only in our favour, but also against the others.”
After being shown Plugge’s comments about beer-slugging French riders by LÉquipe last night, Groupama’s typically effusive manager Madiot responded angrily, describing the Jumbo-Visma CEO’s remarks as “small and shabby”.
“That’s it, stop! On every rest day, we have a moment of conviviality between my riders and the management. The management drinks a beer, not necessarily the riders. And even if they had drunk one, it wouldn’t have been fifty centilitres. I was at the table, there were Perrier waters,” he said.
“It’s shabby, small and shabby. It's a shame. Who does he think he is? I have my nutritionist next door, he can talk to you about what we do within the team. Frankly, it’s an exceptionally base attack on his part.”
Madiot continued: “What is this comment getting at? That our riders aren’t serious, that they don’t train? The next day, I asked my eight riders to do the time trial properly, including the non-specialists, and the worst did 80th [Quentin Pacher finished 81st].
“I put eight riders in the top 80 and the next day I had four in the breakaway, so he can shut his mouth. I don’t intend to meet him, I don’t give a f***. I’m not going to lower myself to go see him. I’m angry, it’s pathetic.”
As well as his thinly veiled attack on Groupama-FDJ, Plugge insisted that his team is “transparent” and called on those questioning their success to “ask the right questions and analyse”.
“There are two things,” he said, when asked to address the accusations swirling around Jumbo-Visma. “The first is that we open our doors to people who shoot documentaries, it’s been four years now, journalists come to our training camps.
“The second thing I want to say is that some people could look deeper, ask the right questions and analyse.
“For example, Australian television did an analysis of the time trial, with the videos of Jonas and Pogačar in parallel, and we can already see a big gap, in the cadence of pedalling, the change of bike which makes him lose 40 seconds. It is enormous.
“You can also ask Bert Blocken, professor of aerodynamics with whom we work, the gains between a chrono bike and a normal bike like the one used by Pogačar in the last kilometres. We respond with all that, we try to give the indications.”
Where Vingegaard took time on Pogacar during Stage 16 of the Tour de France!@simongerrans and @Bridie_OD break down the Dane's cornering aggression! #sbstdf #TDF2023 #couchpeloton pic.twitter.com/s8BkceMlXT
— SBS Sport (@SBSSportau) July 18, 2023
However, when asked why his team did not release their rider’s data in a bid to assuage some of the suspicions, Plugge said that while “experts would know how to look at it… a majority would misinterpret it”.
“Apparently if you win in cycling, to the French you apparently never can do it right,” he concluded. “Me, I would say, ‘Come over, we can tell you everything’. I answer every question, like I do now.”
Surely, after Thibaut Pinot’s epic but ill-fated ride in the Vosges today, even a lofty standard bearer like Plugge would turn a blind eye if he spotted the retiring French hero sipping a pint in the hotel restaurant tonight?
Or maybe not…
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.