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Ineos Grenadiers was surprisingly absent from stamping any authority on the peloton for much of the first 12 days of the Tour de France but the team’s tactically astute racing and more aggressive stance struck gold Thursday.
On the summit of Alpe d’Huez, this version of Ineos is almost unrecognizable from the version that used to strangle the race into submission through most of the last decade.
The payoff was victory by Pidcock on the Tour’s most famous mountain, with Geraint Thomas dropping Romain Bardet to climb back into third overall.
“The team really deserves it because the boys have worked super hard. We had a few knocks to be honest, but they’ve really reacted in a positive way,” sports director Steve Cummings told VeloNews at the top of Alpe d’Huez.
“We’ve just wanted to race, and the lads want to win. If we can’t win the GC then we just need to take risks and go for stages. We can’t just play it safe and everyone is of the same mindset, which is quite cool. The guys have been great with a more flexible approach.”
Without the yellow jersey, the British team has no pressure to set the pace, but 12 months ago that’s exactly what the squad would have done, only to see its hopes dissipated by Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates in the mountains.
This time around, it’s Jumbo and UAE that have taken charge of the proceedings with 1-2 in the overall standings and several stage wins between them.
But after almost two weeks of racing, Ineos sees riders in third, fifth, and eighth on GC, a stage win in the bag thanks to Tom Pidcock’s sensational ride on Alpe d’Huez, and a moderate lead in the team standings.
At the start of the year, the team would have expected more but that was before Egan Bernal’s serious injury, and before one of its Tour leading replacements, Dani Martínez, came down with illness.
The battle for yellow isn’t completely over from an Ineos perspective. If second placed Tadej Pogačar can have a bad day in the Alps then he can have one in the Pyrenees too, while new leader Jonas Vingegaard has never experienced the pressure of leading the Tour.
“I don’t worry too much about the top two,” he said. “I just make sure that we do the basics really well and then when we arrive in Paris, and if the other guys are stronger, we’ll need to look at what we can improve. But we just want to make sure that we ride a smart race.”
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- Tour de France stage 12: Tom Pidcock becomes youngest winner on Alpe d’Huez
Thomas looks steady in comparison, not as explosive in the mountains, but certainly durable and consistent. Third, at least, is his in Paris if he does not crack.
What’s striking is Ineos’ desire to hunt stage wins and leave enough protection around Thomas for when it matters most. Adam Yates has completely gone under the radar but could still net a top-five in Paris.
“Geraint looks really solid, Adam is right there, too. Bardet was dropped, which is good for us, so we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing and keep chipping away. We’ll ask the questions and keep racing aggressively,” Cummings said.
As for Pidcock, the stage 12 win was a major stepping stone in his development as an all-rounder. He is arguably the most complete bike rider on the planet right now, although ardent Wout van Aert fans might disagree.
“He’s pretty happy, and I’m sure he’ll have some great Instagram stories later for sure. It’s Pidcock doing Pidcock stuff,” Cummings said.
“Before we came to the race he asked me what I expected from him and I just said full commitment. At times that means sacrificing himself and he’s done that.”
Commitment, sacrifice, and aggression are paying off for Ineos Grenadiers in this year’s Tour de France.