VILLARD-DE-LANS, France (VN) — Two weeks ago in Nice, Ineos-Grenadiers was plotting victory of its eighth yellow jersey in nine years. Now it will be happy if they can win a stage before the Tour de France is over.
Team boss Dave Brailsford admitted Tuesday something went wrong in the approach to the 2020 Tour.
“Obviously we are out of the race for the overall,” Brailsford said Tuesday. “It’s not what we were hoping for, but on the other hand, when we had the rest day and took stock of the situation, there’s nobody looking in the mirror more than us. But it’s a bit of a test of pride, passion, and character now.”
The 2020 Tour will be remembered for the year that the Brailsford Midas touch went cold.
Egan Bernal tumbled out of the top-10 on Sunday under pressure from the Jumbo-Visma train. The team pivoted toward trying to win a stage before the Tour ends in Paris.
Bernal lived up to his promise to bring up water bottles, and the team put three riders into the day’s main breakaway. Even that didn’t work out, and Richard Carapaz finished second to Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Coming into this year’s Tour, Brailsford turned his back on the team glorious past, and planted the team’s future around Bernal. In a high-stakes bet, Brailsford surrounded the 23-year-old Colombian with a young and inexperienced squad. Only Luke Rowe, who joined in 2012, and Michal Kwiatkowski, who joined in 2016, had raced during the headiest days of “Fortress Froome.”
Since 2012, the team has won seven of eight yellow jerseys with four different riders, unprecedented in modern history. The only year that streak was broken was in 2014, when Chris Froome crashed out in the first week.
Brailsford defended his decision to leave four-time yellow jersey Froome and 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas at home.
“It was a good decision (on Geraint), regardless of what anybody else may think, and Chris is where Chris is at,” Brailsford said. “[Froome] just not ready yet for this level of competition and I think he knows that himself. He’s doing a fantastic job of getting back to where he needs to be but on both of those fronts, we will go back and see what we can learn.
“I’d never judge myself on somebody else’s narrative to be honest,” Brailsford said. “I think we will look back at what information we had at the time, did we get it right, did we get it wrong, can we learn? I’m actually very pleased to see Geraint doing so well at Tirreno-Adriatico and looking so good going into the Giro.”
Brailsford has come under heat for the Tour misfire this year. Former team captain Bradley Wiggins even suggested that Brailsford would be fired if he were a high-profile soccer coach.
Cycling is different, of course, and Ineos Grenadiers is Brailsford’s baby. Even if British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe owns the team, Brailsford position at the top of the team’s power structure is safe for now.
Brailsford and the rest of the team now want to bring the team to Paris on their terms. It’s obvious they won’t be winning this year, but Brailsford made it loud and clear the team will be back. With the peloton’s largest payroll and a team full of young, ambitious riders, Brailsford is confident the team will be back in the yellow jersey frame.
“Next year’s Tour starts now,” Brailsford said. “As far as we are concerned, this is the first day of trying to win the Tour next year. That’s the way we are looking at it.
“It’s not often you can go to the third week of a grand tour and experiment, so we are going to use the rest of this week to try and get something out of the race but also to learn and maybe do a few things that we normally wouldn’t risk doing.”
Tuesday’s stage didn’t tilt their way. Leonard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked out of the breakaway to drop Carapaz and win the stage, and Bernal finished in the gruppetto.
If next year’s Tour start now, the team will be trying to forget this one as soon as they can.