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Castroviejo says rivals edging closer to Ineos in Tour

The Spanish worker eyes the Olympic Games without losing the team's focus on the yellow jersey.

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Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos) says rivals are closing in on the team’s stranglehold on the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.

The 32-year-old Basque rider, who extended his contract with Ineos through 2021, said the team never takes its success in the Tour for granted.

“We already saw at the Tour that Jumbo-Visma is getting closer,” he said in an interview released Saturday. “They have a complete team, and others like UAE [Team Emirates] and Bahrain [Merida] have a big budget and strong lineups. It’s good for cycling that there’s competition. And Ineos is making itself over to do things even better.”

The Basque time trialist and worker joined Ineos/Sky in 2018, and soon became an important engine for the British outfit, helping the team to win the 2018 Tour with Geraint Thomas and this year’s edition with Egan Bernal. Castroviejo said Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe made life more difficult than expected in July.

“The objective was to win the Tour and we did, with Egan as the first Colombian,” he said. “And the way he did it, demonstrating that he was the strongest, was perfect. It wasn’t easy, above all because we came up against an Alaphilippe who, at the beginning, wasn’t seen as a rival. We went into the final week of the Tour with [Alaphilippe] as the leader, and it was scary because he showed how strong he was, especially on the Tourmalet.

“I also knew that in the two last stages, with the altitude, that no one was going to be able to stay with Egan,” he said. “At 2800m, it’s another story, and in the end, he could build a winning advantage. The Tour is the Tour. You can’t always win, be it for crashes, for how you race, or simply because someone else is stronger. As long as the number-one objective is that, we will always try to win it.”

Castroviejo said the arrival of new teammate Richard Carapaz will make Ineos even stronger. The arrival of the Ecuadoran underscores the growing Spanish accent on Ineos, which will see eight riders — possibly more — in 2020 from Spain and Latin America.

For 2020, Castroviejo will be targeting a return to the Tour in a helper role as well as the individual time trial in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. In Rio de Janeiro, he missed the bronze medal by four seconds. The rider who beat him out? Ineos captain Chris Froome.

“I don’t want to give it too much importance, but to lose an Olympic medal by four seconds stings a little bit,” he said. “So why not in 2020? Japan is my favorite country to travel to, so this gives me even more motivation. Let’s see if it’s possible.”