Featured image courtesy of Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Team Ineos, who will race as the Ineos Grenadiers in France to promote a new 4×4, have unveiled their plans for the three Grand Tours this season.
Egan Bernal is set to defend his Tour de France title, whilst Geraint Thomas will target the Giro d’Italia and Chris Froome the Vuelta a Espana.
In what proved to be somewhat of a surprise, both Froome and Thomas have been left off the Tour de France roster, the pair having won five of the last seven editions.Embed from Getty Images
It will be the first time since 2011 that Froome has not raced the Tour, and the first since 2012 for Thomas.
The British duo proved to be well off the pace at the recent Criterium du Dauphiné, which was likely the key motivation to leave them off the team.
Given DS Gabriel Rasch spoke at the end of the race that Froome and Thomas would still be on the start line in Nice, the line-up seems to have been changed very recently.
This means Egan Bernal will enjoy sole leadership of the Tour team, enabling him to stamp his authority on Team Ineos and herald what is a changing of the guard within the team; he will be joined by young Russian Pavel Sivakov who impressed in the mountains at the Dauphiné.
This duo will be a symbolic contrast to the experienced veterans of Froome and Thomas.
Bernal will have the added pressure of the entire team being built around him for the first time in a Grand Tour, but given his victory last year this is unlikely to cause any problems.
The team contains various Team Sky/Ineos Grand Boucle stalwarts, as well as some newcomers.
One of those is Richard Carapaz. The Ecuadorian had intended to defend his Giro d’Italia title, but he has swapped places with Thomas. He has displayed good form recently with a stage win at the Tour of Poland.Embed from Getty Images
Nonetheless, Carapaz is an interesting inclusion. He had not been rumoured to be on the Tour squad at all until Italian newspaper La Gazzetto Dello Sport reported it yesterday; suggesting that Bernal’s back injury that forced him to withdraw from the Dauphiné caused Carapaz to be chosen as a backup should Bernal not recover.
That this decision was made highlights the importance of the Tour de France to the British outfit.
It would have been easy for Dave Brailsford to send Froome to the Tour as a feel-good story after his horror crash last year.
A triumphant fifth attempt at winning the race would have brought with it huge public support in Britain and across the cycling world.
Froome himself seemingly agreed with his non-selection: ‘I’m not confident I can really fulfil the necessary job that would be needed of me at this year’s Tour de France,’ he said after the announcement.
He will return to the Vuelta a Espana for the first time since winning it in 2017. It’s a race the Briton always finds success in, having won it twice as well as two second-place finishes.Embed from Getty Images
With the late start this year Froome should have ample time to get close to, or at, his top form.
He will also seemingly be able to count on Bernal for support; the Columbian said ‘maybe I can go there [the Vuelta] to try and help Froomey. Now I need to be focused on the Tour but after the Tour I have no plans yet, so it could be a good option.’
Meanwhile, Geraint Thomas returns to the Giro for his fourth appearance at the race, and the first since crashing out in 2017.Embed from Getty Images
‘It’s something I’ve always wanted to go back to. I enjoy racing there, and the roads and the fans.’
The route includes three individual time trials, something that will surely appeal to Thomas who is one of the strongest riders against the clock against other general classification contenders.
For Thomas however, his non-selection may well be a disappointment. The Welshman has continuously stated his desire to win a second Tour title and would have been motivated this year given his second-place last year, despite a very tough build-up.
Given the disruption to racing this year, Thomas will have felt he would still be able to prove himself at the Tour, whether it be in a leadership or domestique role.
Whether he will be able to re-motivate himself for the Giro remains to be seen, as does the squad Ineos will take to support him, which could included Carapaz relegating himself to a support role as opposed to defending his title.
The Ineos Grenadiers squad for the Tour de France contains:
Dylan van Baarle