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With the first summit finish of the race beckoning Kwiatkowski and his team leader Egan Bernal at Orcieres-Merlette, Ineos Grenadiers is willing to roll the dice in what could be the first major battle between them and rival Dutch team, Jumbo-Visma.
“It’s not the hardest day if you look at the whole three weeks. I wouldn’t expect big moves on GC, with riders exploding the race pretty early, but obviously you never really know,” Kwiatkowski said Tuesday morning.
“Hopefully, if the opportunity is there we’re going to take it, but we have to be cautious to watch out for the main rivals.”
Jumbo-Visma also spoke Tuesday ahead of the stage to the Merclette ski station in the southern Alps, stating their intent to control and defend rather than spark the race to life so early in the three weeks. Their lead pair of Primož Roglič and Tom Dumoulin currently sit at the same time on GC as Bernal and his wingman, Richard Carapaz.
Although defending Tour champ Bernal is Ineos’ stated leader for the race, Jumbo-Visma will have to watch for attacks from the British team from various angles.
“Let’s not forget that Richard won the Giro, let’s not forget that Pavel Sivakov is in an incredible form, which he showed at the Critérium du Dauphiné,” Kwiatkowski said. “Riding for one leader does not mean that we will not play our cards with other riders. It also means there isn’t so much pressure on Egan.”
“We came here to win again and we will be adjusting what others are doing and who feels strong enough, who doesn’t lose time in the first week and is able to gain in the second and third weeks. You cannot win the Tour in the first week but you can certainly lose it there.”
One rider who certainly lost the Tour in the first week is Ineos’ Tour rookie Pavel Sivakov, who crashed twice on the treacherous opening stage and now sits dead last 47 minutes behind yellow jersey Julian Alaphillipe. While the Russian won’t pose a threat on GC, his time-loss could throw a breakaway joker into the pack and give his team a strategic card to play as Jumbo-Visma and Ineos go toe-to-toe.
“He’s mentally ready to survive,” Kwiatkowski said of his young teammate. “The Tour de France is three weeks long and he knows that. Every day he knows that he needs to just pass that moment of suffering and definitely it will get better.”