Ineos Grenadiers ruled the Tour for the better part of a decade, winning seven yellow jerseys in eight years with four different riders using its trademark full-throttle Sky train.
Cycling’s super-team seemed poised to carry that momentum into a second decade when Pogačar suddenly appeared in 2020 to turn the Tour hierarchy upside down.
Rather than throw in the yellow-jersey towel, Ineos Grenadiers management says the rise of Pogačar is prompting the team to find a new roadmap back to its Tour glory.
“Pogačar is a phenomenal bike rider. He’s one of the best we’ve ever seen, and it’s great to have some great competition,” Ineos team boss Rod Ellingworth told VeloNews on Sunday. “To be honest, it makes us to want it even more.”
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Ineos Grenadiers rolls into the 2022 Tour with high ambitions but with a slightly lower profile.
For a decade every July, all eyes were on the Ineos/Sky bus. The big buzz coming into this year’s Tour, however, is centered around Pogačar and the imminent duel with Jumbo-Visma.
Ellingworth, who was an integral part of the Ineos/Sky glory days, said the team is more motivated than ever to win and perform, even if other teams are grabbing a bit of the spotlight.
“We’ve done plenty of winning in the past, and we want to keep pushing and winning. There is not a lack of ambition on the team, let me assure you. It’s good to have competition in that sense,” he said.
“There are several teams that are very similar level now,” Ellingworth said. “I feel proud of doing what we’ve done, and we’re constantly in the mix, constantly winning bike races. We’ve had a marvelous season when I think of some of the wins we’ve had, and what some of the young guys are achieving. We are in there.”
🔜 Stage 3⃣
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) July 3, 2022
This year’s Tour sees Ineos Grenadiers bringing three designated GC captains, with 2018 winner Geraint Thomas, Dani Martínez and Adam Yates.
Yates posted a solid time trial Friday, and will start Tuesday’s fourth stage the best-placed among the team in eighth overall, at 16 seconds behind third-place Pogačar and more or less even with Jumbo-Visma. Thomas is 18 seconds adrift, and Martínez is 37 seconds behind Pogačar.
With Egan Bernal still recovering from injuries, the team is looking to a unique mix of three co-leaders to try to topple Pogačar or the Jumbo-Visma bus.
“We’ve always try to come in with more than one leader, so that’s nothing new for us,” Ellingworth said. “We are lucky to have three guys in good nick. They all get along well, and they’ve worked for each other this season in different races. What goes around comes around and it will pay out on the road.”
Ineos Grenadiers long dominated the Tour by taking the race by the scruff of the neck and riding a brutal tempo that no one could match.
Confirmed winners like Chris Froome meant the team could impose its might on the peloton, and then let Froome finish everyone off.
The aggressive style of Pogačar is forcing Ineos Grenadiers and other teams to adapt.
The Slovenian isn’t afraid to attack from far from the finish line and slice right through efforts to shut down the race. That’s making it challenging for the dominance of stronger teams like Ineos or Jumbo-Visma to control the race.
Ellingworth hinted that Ineos Grenadiers will be racing more aggressively throughout this Tour, and the team is hoping to exploit any opening, be it in the crosswinds, cobblestones, or even flatter sprint stages.
“You can also look at it as an opportunity, and that’s the main way to avoid trouble,” Ellingworth said of the dangerous transition stages. “We are not scared of the crosswinds. You have to be ready for every situation.”
Ellingworth made it no secret that the team is racing to win the Tour.
If the team brings a secret tactic to try to topple Pogačar, he’s not telling.
“Maybe. We’re not going to tell you. We’ve got our plans,” he said with a sparkle in his eye. “He’s human, he’s going to lose one day, so take you have to take your chance.”