The team has won seven of the past eight yellow jerseys, with four different riders, a feat unequaled in cycling history. With 2019 Tour de France Egan Bernal and 2019 Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz leading the way, the team lines up in Nice with a deep team very capable of keeping that streak alive.
The bombshell, of course, is that Tour de France winners Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas won’t be there. They own five yellow jerseys between them, but the team is betting on the future without forgetting the present in the 107th edition of cycling’s most important stage race.
The future is now for Ineos Grenadiers. Bernal will have outright leadership duties, with Carapaz slotting in as a protected co-captain. Backing them up is a stellar support crew that knows how to win the yellow jersey.
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Egan Bernal, Andrey Amador, Richard Carapaz, Jonathan Castroviejo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Luke Rowe, Pavel Sivakov, Dylan Van Baarle
The shocker here, of course, is who isn’t going to Nice. Froome and Thomas are UK superstars with five Tour trophies on their shelves, but they’ll be watching the Tour this year from the couch.
Team boss Dave Brailsford proved yet again it’s all about performance and the victory inside the Ineos bus. And there was no room for sentimentality or loyalty in the selection of the team’s Tour roster.
Of the two glaring absences, Thomas’s was probably the most surprising. Though he looked less than sharp at this first races back following the long lockdown, things appeared on track for the 2018 Tour winner. A runner-up last year behind Bernal, Thomas will be shipped off to the Giro d’Italia instead.
Froome’s absence is a bit of a lesser surprise, considering that the four-time Tour winner was still on the comeback trail from his devastating crash in the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné. With one foot out the door, with Froome set to join Israel Start-Up Nation next season, he will target the Vuelta a España.
The team firmly plants its flag around the 23-year-old Bernal, who patiently chipped away at Julian Alaphilippe in last year’s Tour to make history as Colombia’s first yellow jersey. With full support for Bernal, the team also avoids a potential power struggle inside the team if Froome and Thomas were lining up.
Brailsford also tapped Carapaz, who was supposed to defend his Giro title in October, to ride as a protected co-captain. Pavel Sivakov makes his highly anticipated debut, and though he will be expected to support his captains, many insiders say the Russian is absolutely flying.
Behind them will be an all-star supporting cast. Luke Rowe, Jonathan Castroviejo, Dylan Van Baarle and Michal Kwiatkowski are all back from last year’s winning team. They know how to manage the race, when and where to support Bernal, and most importantly, how to deliver victory. Costa Rican workhorse Andrey Amador, a veteran of Movistar’s many grand tour campaigns, rounds out the rock-solid support crew.
Much has been made of the showdown with Jumbo-Visma, so it’s likely Team Ineos will race a bit differently in 2020 than it has in the past.
Instead of trying to deliver an early knock-out blow as it often did with Froome, this Tour could convert into a longer, protracted battle that extends all the way to the Alps in the third week. Team Ineos will be aiming to keep Bernal and Carapaz within range of the yellow jersey if they don’t carry it out of the Pyrénées. Rather than snow-plow their way to Paris, the team will be picking their moments instead.
Having such a direct rival will also have its benefits.
The Dutch team will be equally interested in controlling breakaways and tamping down any would-be wildcards. That could help take some of the pressure of Ineos, which could prove decisive in such a challenging parcours, allowing the team to save some of its strength for the final decisive week.
Having Bernal carrying the team colors alone will also play out on the road as well for Ineos. By leaving two franchise riders at home — both Froome and Thomas were among the original lineup of the inaugural Team Sky team in 2010 — it means that Ineos is now Bernal’s team.
Brailsford’s recruiting and rebuilding efforts executed during the 2017-18 seasons will come to fruition at the Tour this year. Only Rowe, who joined in 2012, is among the team’s “old guard.” Kwiatkowski joined in 2016, and everyone else on the roster signed on in 2018 or later. These relatively new recruits will be keen to prove they’re up to the task.
Most important for Ineos is that the team knows how to win the Tour de France.
Jumbo-Visma might have looked awfully strong at the Critérium du Dauphiné, but their only grand tour win came in last year’s Vuelta with Primož Roglič. Ineos has won seven of the past eight Tours, with four different riders, and that winning acumen carries all the way down to the mechanics, soigneurs, sport directors and other staffers. Simply put, the yellow jersey is part of the team’s DNA.
With Bernal and Carapaz supported by such strong riders, the defending champions line up in Nice as the team to beat. They won’t be looking at that way. Instead of seeing the Tour as theirs to lose, Brailsford drills in the message that the race must be won. It’s a subtle, yet important psychological difference that keeps everyone on their toes and racing aggressively.
It’s worked almost every summer since 2012. The surprise of the Tour will be if an Ineos rider doesn’t end up tops in Paris again.