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Reports of the impending departure of elite climber Wout Poels reveal a deeper reshuffling at cycling’s richest team.
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that Poels is headed to Bahrain-Merida for 2020, the latest move in what’s seeing Ineos remake itself as it prepares for the future.
Poels has long been hyped as one of those riders who are helpers at Ineos, but could be a leader on any other team. It appears he’ll get his chance at Bahrain-Merida, which also sees the arrival of Mikel Landa and the expected departure of franchise rider Vincenzo Nibali to Trek-Segafredo for 2020.
The arrival of former Sky/Ineos trainer Rod Ellingworth to Bahrain-Merida for 2020 as general manager sees a natural bridge for Poels to join the team.
“[Ellingworth] is the person who convinced me to ride for the team,” Poels told De Telegraaf. “I look forward to the new challenge, and with some new opportunities.”
Poels’ imminent departure, coupled with a few other key exits, reveal how team boss Dave Brailsford is reshaping the team for the future.
Other riders leaving include Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Diego Rosa, who will join Nairo Quintana at Arkéa-Samsic, and David de la Cruz, who has been linked to Movistar and Cofidis.
Turnover in any team is normal, but Poels’s exit reveals that there isn’t enough room at the top for Ineos. The arrival of Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz crowds an already packed GC hierarchy. Poels knew if he wanted to lead, he would have to leave.
The 31-year-old Dutch rider has been an indispensable piece of “Fortress Froome” since joining in 2015, where he’s ridden on four Tour-winning squads. He’s confirmed his class with a win at the 2016 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a handful of other races when he’s been given freedom to ride for himself.
Ineos boss Brailsford, meanwhile, continues on his efforts to reshape the team for the future in a process that started two years when he brought on such riders as Egan Bernal, Pavel Sivakov and Kristoffer Halverson for the 2018 season.
Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Bernal — winners of the past six of seven editions of the Tour de France — remain at the center of grand tour ambitions for the UK powerhouse. With those three firmly in place, coupled with the arrival of Carapaz, Ineos is focusing its pocketbook on building its base for the coming decade.
With Froome and Thomas both under contract through 2020 and 2021, respectively, and Bernal signed on to race through 2023, Brailsford can afford to let such riders as Poels move on.