This year’s Tour de France could be the most open yet, predicts French veteran sport directors Philippe Mauduit (Groupama-FDJ) and Cyrille Guimard.
Speaking separately, the two French insiders were unanimous in their thoughts regarding the bombshell news that Chris Froome would be leaving Team Ineos at the end of the season – that the internal politics and tensions resulting from the announcement could spark into “explosions” within the British team this year. With Froome and co-leaders Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas all equally ambitious, fractures could easily appear as riders prioritize self-interest over team strategy.
“We don’t know if it will explode at Ineos and what will happen,” Mauduit told Cyclism’Actu.”We can imagine a lot of things. They are going to experience the Tour de France internally and what will happen to them will happen.”
Guimard, the former director of Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon, Greg LeMond, and more recently, the French national team, predicts similar fireworks. With Ineos packing three Tour champions, and the team claiming that the trio will continue to ride as equals despite the imminent departure of Froome, Guimard sees the Ineos bus as a ticking time bomb.
“Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, and Chris Froome, that makes three Tour winners at the same time,” Guimard said. “Froome will be a powder keg. When will the spark ignite the wick that will explode everything? That is impossible to know.”
“In the end, I almost want to say all the better for the Tour and all the better for the leaders of the other teams if Ineos aligns Bernal, Froome, and Thomas together,” he continued. “It may be an extraordinary chance to see Team Ineos explode during the Tour.”
Although much has been made of the power in Team Ineos’ Tour de France team and the challenge posed to them by the Jumbo-Visma trio of Primož Roglič, Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk, this year’s Tour, set to start August 29, boasts a host of talent that will be snapping at their heels. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates), Nairo Quintana (Arkea Samsic), Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren), and Mauduit’s Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) are all on the long-list of favorites for this year’s race, and they will all be watching and waiting for a potential Ineos eruption.
“The three at the start, it opens doors for the adversaries,” said Guimard. “I find that good if they are all three at the start, we will be even more attentive to everything that is going on. And it would be good for Pinot, for Bardet, for Quintana, for Jumbo-Visma.”
Mauduit and his team leader Pinot will be playing close attention to Ineos this summer. Having gotten so near yet so far to Tour glory last year, the 30-year-old is packing new-found confidence in himself and his team and will be looking to improve on his best-ever third-place finish at the Tour.
“It will be up to us to exploit all the flaws that they will open or that they will open up,” Mauduit said of the potential rift at Ineos. “An advantage of having a single leader? It will depend on what teams that have two or three leaders will be able to put in place. And then it will also depend on who will want more to win in these teams. For our part, we will play our cards day by day.”
“It will be interesting, there will be sport,” concluded Guimard when discussing the potential dynamics at this summer’s Tour.
Let the games begin.