Heading into their 13th season, Ineos Grenadiers have switched from its de facto position of simply accumulating proven WorldTour talent and instead taken a more long-term approach with the signing of several key youngsters in the transfer market.
In have come veterans Omar Fraile and Elia Viviani but their arrivals have been supplemented by the signings of Ben Tulett, Kim Heiduk, Ben Turner, and Magnus Sheffield.
This is still a stage race-driven operation, with multiple options for the Grand Tours and week-long events, but there’s perhaps greater depth than ever before with a new generation being built around Tom Pidcock and Ethan Hayter.
Manager: Dave Brailsford
Squad size: 31
Average age: 27.3
World ranking: Second – 14,988.66 pts
In terms of the win tally, 2021 was the British team’s best year since they posted 43 victories back in 2018. That season they won both the Giro and Tour, and while it’s been two years without Tour success there’s no doubting that the team stepped up in other areas in 2021.
In Pidcock they finally have a rider to rally behind in the Spring Classics, while Carapaz, Bernal, and Yates have become the team’s three Grand Tour leaders. Their secondary lineup of Geoghegan Hart and Thomas remain viable options but both need to improve if they’re to generate talk of leadership over three weeks.
Although Chris Froome departed a year ago, it still feels as though the team are in a transitional phase, not least because of the managerial shifts and the question marks over Dave Brailsford’s position.
Egan Bernal: In terms of stage racing prowess, Egan Bernal remains the team’s strongest card. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Colombian has the team’s best chance of Grand Tour success in 2022 because Carapaz’s path to Giro glory is probably less perilous than Bernal’s congested route at the Tour should Roglic and Pogacar feature.
That said, a healthy Bernal is still a franchise athlete, and while the Tour route is stacked against him the 24-year-old is the only realistic opposition facing the Slovenian favourites. Outside of the Grand Tours, Bernal needs to find his feet in the week-long stage races, where he hasn’t come out on top in a WorldTour event since 2019.
It’s telling that a team with such rich finances and their self-portrayed attention to detail have their Tour hopes resting on a rider with a fragile back, but that’s the situation they find themselves in.
Tom Pidcock: The 22-year-old breathed new life into the team’s Classics contingent – alongside Dylan van Baarle – with a string of eye-catching performances that included a win in De Brabantse Pijl, second in Amstel Gold Race and a series of standout rides throughout March and April.
Pidcock’s Olympic gold medal demonstrated his versatility, and while his Vuelta a España ride failed to deliver a breadth of highlights it was still an impressive body of work given how much of the summer focus had been built around Tokyo. With a hybrid cyclo-cross/mountain bike/road WorldTour season under his belt, Pidcock goes into 2022 with plenty of options and a sense of real leadership about him.
It’s likely that he will once more lead the line in the Classics, while talk of a Giro d’Italia assault alongside Richard Carapaz has been suggested in some quarters. Given his versatility and obvious talent, it’s not impossible to envisage Pidcock becoming Britain’s first Monument winner since Mark Cavendish in 2009.
Ethan Hayter: The second-year pro claimed roughly a quarter of Ineos Grenadiers’ victories in 2021 with nine wins spread throughout an incredible breakthrough season. None of the wins came at WorldTour level but the 23-year-old was still going up against the likes of Wout van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe at the Tour of Britain and more than holding his own.
There’s a fearlessness about Hayter’s style of racing, similar to that of Pidcock, and if Ineos can continue to harness that ability and not stifle it in the same way they’ve perhaps done with other sprinters and one-day stars in the past then Hayter could be on course for an even better year in 2022.
Filippo Ganna: Pound-for-pound the best time trialist in the world with back-to-back rainbow jerseys against the clock and a string of other victories to boot. Ganna has become a cornerstone at the British team since signing from UAE Team Emirates at the end of 2018.
In what remains one of the best pieces of transfer business in the last decade, the 25-year-old has developed on both the road and track, and while some point to his lack of Classics pedigree, it’s hardly a fair assessment given that he’s mastered the time trial world, become a world-beating force on the track and done it all by the time he’s 25.
Bringing Ganna to a Grand Tour also ensures a team at least one stage win – he’s won six in just his first two attempts – while his attitude and application to work for others is exemplary. Surely a Tour de France start is just about the corner.
Richard Carapaz: It’s unlikely that Carapaz will ever win the Tour – his time trialing isn’t good enough and the style of racing in France’s Grand Tour doesn’t lend itself to his qualities – but the Olympic champion remains an integral part of the squad.
He was the only Ineos rider at the Tour de France to meet anything like the expectations put on him in 2021, while his ride in Tokyo was reminiscent of the performances that won him the Giro back in 2019. In theory, and assuming he returns to the Giro in 2022, he could be Ineos’ best bet for Grand Tour success, and could be a genuine dark horse for the Ardennes.
Stage racing remains the heartbeat of the team, but there’s no doubt that the British squad have become a more rounded unit in the last few years. The development of Ganna, and the signings of Yates and Pidcock has given the team an added dimension that was previously missing or overshadowed.
There were only three one-day wins in 2021, outside of National Championships, but expect that number to spike next season. Pidcock will be a year older and wiser, while the development of Hayter and the arrival of Viviani should help keep the win tally ticking over. The team, however, will be measured by their success in the Grand Tours, and in Carapaz, Bernal, Thomas, Yates and Geoghegan Hart they have an abundance of podium contenders.
Much rests on Bernal, but if he’s injury-free then expect him to shine. Dani Martínez is a perfect foil or support rider in the Grand Tour mountains, while this is also a massive year for Pavel Sivakov, who has been plagued by bad luck in the last few seasons. Assuming Thomas finally puts pen to paper, it will be fascinating to see whether he will be given another shot at Grand Tour leadership or if he’ll copy Bradley Wiggins’s career and target the Classics.
The likely scenario is that Thomas is given a Plan-B leadership role at the Tour – like he had in 2018. It will be fascinating to see what Richie Porte can do in his final season before retirement but the signing of Fraile is one to follow, too. He appeared to lack direction at times during the last two years at Astana but there’s clearly a world-class engine under the hood.
While the team are undoubtedly stacked in the stage racing department the fact remains that even with Bernal at 100 percent the squad have neither of the two best stage racers in the world. Of course, Pogačar and Roglič can be beaten and at some point, the two-time Tour winner will have a bad day but unless Bernal can wind the clock back to 2019 or Thomas to 2018, the team will find themselves short of a Tour de France winner.
They certainly have the depth and arguably the strongest eight-man roster for nearly every scenario but without a time trial specialist at the Tour de France the team will struggle at their biggest goal of the season. Along with that, the team were dogged by rumours of splits within the camp between the English- and Spanish-speaking riders. There’s a legitimate question over team harmony.
It’s also not clear who will be running the team in 2022. There have been rumours all year that Dave Brailsford will step into a more central position at Ineos with Rod Ellingworth taking more control of the day-to-day operations but with the departure of Tim Kerrison and the arrival of news team directors there’s certainly an element of change within the management structure.
Ineos will win plenty of races in 2022, of that there’s no doubt. They’ve invested too heavily to fail and they’re still the only WorldTour team that can legitimately try and aim for the victory in all three Grand Tours.
UAE might push them close on that claim given the arrival of João Almeida, but unless Pogačar doubles up with the Tour and Vuelta, Ineos remain the best option for the triple.
That said, the Tour win remains the primary ambition for both the team and their financial backer Jim Ratcliffe. A victory there, what would be their eighth in 11 years, would gloss over any shortcomings or failures but at least the team have a number of young and exciting prospects for the future.