Tour de France 2020

Thomas, Froome look for bright side of Tour snub

Moves eliminate risk of Tour squabbling, and opens up Ineos for possible grand tour sweep.

Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas will be Tour de France spectators later this month.

Team Ineos dropped the bombshell Wednesday that the former Tour winners will not be part of the team’s 2020 eight-rider roster. Egan Bernal headlines a team packed with relatively new arrivals to the franchise.

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Instead of starting the Tour in Nice on August 29, both former Tour winners will readjust their racing calendars. Thomas will target the Giro d’Italia, and Froome will reset for the Vuelta a España.

Both were diplomatic in their respective reactions to the Tour snub.

“It’s nice to have a firm plan in place,” Thomas said in a team video released Wednesday. “And try to get something positive out of this year.”

The writing was on the wall going toward the Ineos Tour squad selection. Bernal was hot out of the gates, winning his comeback race at La Route d’Occitanie earlier this month.

Both Thomas and Froome, however, were less-than-impressive in the high mountains in their respective comebacks to competition following the long coronavirus lockdown.

Despite sub-par rides at the Critérium du Dauphiné, both seemed surprised to be left off the Tour roster.

Froome, who is leaving Ineos at the end of the season in a multi-year deal with Israel Start-Up Nation, admitted that he might not be ready for the physical challenge of racing the Tour following his career-threatening crash in June 2019.

“It’s definitely a readjustment for me, to move the goal post from the Tour de France to the Vuelta a España,” Froome said Wednesday.

“Given where I’ve come from through the last year, I’ve had an incredible recovery from the big crash last year, and I am in a very fortunate position to be back racing now already,” Froome said. “I am not confident that I can really fulfill the necessary job that would be needed from me at this year’s Tour de France.”

Their pair’s exclusion from the Tour gives Bernal — who became Colombia’s first winner of the yellow jersey last summer — sole leadership of the 2020 Tour squad.

Having Froome and Thomas targeting the season’s other major grand tours also eliminates any risk of intra-squad squabbling between the former and current Tour winners.

And it also opens up the intriguing possibility that Team Ineos could win all three grand tours in one season.

One team, three grand tours

Despite a very strong performance by Jumbo-Visma at the Critérium du Dauphiné last week, Bernal is still the top favorite to win the Tour.

And the Giro route, packed with time trials, favors Thomas, while Froome will have even more time to work on his fitness and recovery before the Vuelta starts in late October.

“It’s a lot more realistic targeting the Vuelta,” Froome said. “It gives me a chance to really get stuck into something that is deliverable. At the end of the day, you have to remember that I am coming back from a horrendous crash last year.

“It’s great now to have that clarity,” Froome continued. “To know that will be my big goal for the season. I wish the team all the best of luck for the month ahead. The racing will be brutal, but I have all the faith in Egan and the team around him that they can deliver the result.”

For Thomas, the Giro marks a bit of unfinished business, and the 2018 Tour winner tried to look at the Italian grand tour as a new opportunity.

“In 2017 I was in great shape. I felt similar to what I was in ’18 when I won the Tour. The Giro ended badly that year with a crash, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to go back to,” Thomas said. “I am certainly looking forward to going back, and that’s the plan now.”

The exclusions of Froome and Thomas mark an end of an era at Ineos. Both were recruits as part of then-Team Sky’s original class of 2010.

The future belongs to Bernal.