Primož Roglič’s wreckin’ crew pulled to the front of the WorldTour peloton in recent seasons, usurping the pride position long held by Ineos Grenadiers.
But Jumbo-Visma director Merijn Zeeman knows the “OG” of modern pro cycling can always claw its way back.
“For me Ineos is always one of one of the best teams in the peloton. They will always find their way up,” Zeeman told VeloNews.
“They have the program and experience. They know how to manage riders, training-wise, nutrition-wise, periodisation-wise. All that knowledge over so many years of leading, it means a lot. They aren’t winning as much like they used to be, but they won’t be going anywhere for a while.”
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Rewind five seasons and the unit formally called Team Sky dominated the Tour de France with its talent-riddled roster and progressive approach. Seven yellow jersey in eight years says it all.
Flash forward to recent years and Promož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar are top favorites for every race they start. There was a Slovenian stranglehold over the opening three stage races of this season while Adam Yates and Daniel Martínez hung on behind.
Ineos Grenadiers is now chasing the wheels and an illness and injury-riddled 2022 stretched the elastic stretch further. Egan Bernal is recovering from a horrific injury, Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte and Richard Carapaz all suffered with sickness.
For the immediate future, the torch rests in the hands of the team’s newer names.
“Their old leaders may be in difficulty, but they have so many big, young talents in the team. Over the years we will see them in the grand tours,” Zeeman said in a recent call. “Of course, you look to [Tom] Pidcock first, but also recently, [Luke] Plapp, Martínez, Yates, Carapaz.”
Jumbo-Visma chief Zeeman thinks it’s that depth of talent and accumulated wisdom from years of pushing pro cycling forward that makes Ineos ever-dangerous.
Aussie superdomestique Porte believes it, too. An early season in the sickbay doesn’t mean Ineos Grenadiers will be suffering in the long-term.
Also read: Porte talks Tirreno, team, retirment
“I still think we’re the best team in the peloton. At this point, with the big guys missing — ‘G’ is sick, Carapaz is sick, and obviously what happened to Egan,” Porte told VeloNews earlier this month.
“The good news there is that he’s back on the bike. It’s hard not to have the luxury of having a Bradley Wiggins or a Chris Froome, who 99 percent of the time would finish it off. You look at UAE and Jumbo-Visma, you hope those guys enjoy what they’re on at the moment. Because those times don’t last forever. I think this team in the future will be the top team again.”
Imitation is flattery – Jumbo-Visma bridges the gap
What to expect from Ineos in the near future?
Bernal is progressing at top speed but he won’t be back in the bunch for a while. Thomas is still fighting for Tour selection, but Yates and Martínez guarantee a multi-prong approach for the French summer.
Although Carapaz, Porte and Tao Geoghegan Hart are slated for the Giro rather than the Tour, it might not be that way in three months’ time. Like Porte said, Ineos Grenadiers doesn’t have its one fail-safe finisher. But it’s sure got a lot of options to play with.
“It’s not always that you need the big, big favorites, but you can also win it as a team and create situations,” Zeeman said. “A team like Ineos has so many riders it’s definitely a benefit.”
In the longer term, Ineos Grenadiers’ younger generation of riders like Ethan Hayter, Ben Tulett and Eddie Dunbar – who are sweeping the boards at Coppi e Bartali this week – bring more brawn to the Brits’ bench.
Ineos Grenadiers long boasted the deepest roster in the bunch. And now just as Jumbo-Visma picked up Ineos Grenadiers’ “marginal gains” methodology, the Dutch team is similarly reaping the reward of bigger budgets and winning momentum to scoop up new stars.
Rising stars Jonas Vingegaard and Sepp Kuss muscle alongside new signings like Rohan Dennis, Tiesj Benoot and Christoph Laporte. Elsewhere, UAE Emirates is doing the same in assembling a Team Sky-esque supersquad with its big off-season spend.
“When you look at the last 10-15 years, you have to give the credit to Team Sky for their approach of marginal gains, and to look into every detail. And that’s something that I would say we took over not last year but a lot of years ago,” team director Grischa Niermann told VeloNews earlier this year.
“The same to some extent with their approach to talent. We knew we needed more options, with our developing riders, or new signings.”
They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
Ineos Grenadiers should be blushing.