Ineos Grenadiers and its plans for grand tour domination – VeloNews.com
Ineos Grenadiers already had a long-running stranglehold on the yellow jersey. Things hit a speed bump in 2020 when Egan Bernal imploded on the Grand Colombier, and the team missed out on winning its eighth Tour de France inside nine years.
For 2021, Ineos Grenadiers is setting the bar even higher. The UK powerhouse is not only setting its sights once again on the Tour, but it’s also bringing serious strength to the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. No longer content with just the yellow jersey, the teams wants the winner’s jerseys from all three grand tours.
Will the new-look Ineos Grenadiers be as strong as it was during the Froome Era? Is spreading out the team’s strengths the best way forward? And will the team truly race in a different style in 2021?
Team boss Dave Brailsford is sending Bernal to the Giro, and Thomas to the Tour, with heaps of other support riders and GC backups, do you agree that’s the best use of Ineos Grenadiers’ firepower?
Fred Dreier: It’s tough to argue with Sir Dave, but here goes. I would send Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richard Carapaz to the Giro to win the thing, and then I’d reserve Bernal and Thomas to be the two co-leaders for the Tour de France, with Carapaz slotting in as a smokey for Tour. I feel like the 2021 Tour route suits Geraint Thomas best on paper, but we don’t know how his 35-year-old legs are going to perform. Having Thomas as well as Bernal gives Ineos better options than the current setup. And, let’s be honest, winning the Tour de France in 2021 after being humiliated there last year should be the team’s biggest goal.
Andrew Hood: I think it’s quite the masterstroke. Sending all their big dogs to the Tour could create tension inside the doghouse, as well as possibly backfire if everyone starts racing for their own bones. Packing Bernal off to the Giro is a smart move. He’ll have less pressure, and if things go off the rails, he can still race the Tour or Vuelta as a backup. Thomas deserves one more shot at leadership, though he could end up seeing Richard Carapaz nipping at his heels. On paper, the Tour is better for Thomas, and the Giro will give Bernal the new motivation he needs.
Jim Cotton: The Ineos roster is a tough one to juggle with so much firepower and so many options. But I think Sir Dave has spread his bets too wide. Bernal, Dani Martínez and Pavel Sivakov leading at the Giro seems like a pretty paper-thin challenge for pink given their combined youth and inexperience, and if Bernal isn’t at his best. Thomas and Carapaz have the firepower to take the Tour, but if Jumbo-Visma piles its hitters into the team for France, they could get steamrollered by Primoz, Wout, Sepp and their wrecking crew. Sir Dave needs Bernal to be at his best at the Giro and have the legs to lend a hand at the Tour afterward for it to work.
There’s a possibility that Ineos Grenadiers can win all three grand tours in 2021; is that even possible, and would it be good for the sport?
Jim: Sure it’s possible. Will it happen? Bah, I’m not so sure. A lot of it depends on whether Jumbo-Visma and particularly Roglič can replicate the whole-season consistency they achieved in 2020, and if Pogačar is able to repeat his feats from last year. Would it be good for the sport? In a way, yes. It would add a whole new narrative to the season and give rival teams even more motivation to stop it from happening.
Fred: I believe it’s possible, but I do not believe it will happen. I think that Jumbo-Visma’s team strength and Tadej Pogačar’s individual strength will be too much for Geraint Thomas, whose big diesel engine is better suited for grand tour racing of the last few years. Plus, I don’t see Adam Yates winning the Vuelta a España. He’s a very strong rider, but I don’t see him.
Andrew: I think it’s possible, and I think they can actually pull it off. They came pretty close last year, winning the Giro and finishing second at the Vuelta. If Bernal is back to anywhere close to full strength, he can win the Giro. I suspect one of the Tour riders will double up, most likely Carapaz, who could easily win the Vuelta. Now they just need to knock off the Tour. I do agree with Fred that the Tour will be more challenging this year for Ineos, especially with Roglič and Pogačar having the momentum.
Brailsford promises the team will race differently in 2021 — what’s behind the shift and do you think it will work?
Andrew: I think the team will race differently in 2021 because they have to. First off, they do not have the guarantee that came with Chris Froome. When he was at the center of the team’s plans, it made sense to build a team entirely around him. No one right now, not even a healthy Bernal, is as complete as Froome was at his prime. Second, the rest of the peloton has caught up to Ineos’s level. Right now, Jumbo-Visma arguably is even stronger at the Tour. Instead of trying to snowplow the peloton, I think the team will try to force Jumbo-Visma and UAE-Emirates to take more responsibility at the Tour, and then try to outflank them in a numbers game.
Jim: Brailsford’s brainwave about a new racing tactic after scoring seven stage wins and the overall at the Giro seems a little like he reverse-engineered his “masterstroke” to be honest. Geoghegan Hart’s victory came after Thomas crashed out, and if “G” had ridden through to Milano, you can bet we’d have seen a more traditional Team Sky style of racing. Ineos isn’t going to risk gambling the Tour with relatively untested strategies when it could get the yellow by crushing the time trials then defending in the mountains. The new offensive style could work at the Giro and Vuelta given the riders Brailsford is planning to send, but if Ineos would choose one grand tour to win in 2021, it won’t be the Giro or Vuelta. It will be a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in France.
Fred: I don’t see them racing any differently at the Tour de France, now that Ineos Grenadiers have — on paper, anyway — the strongest team in the WorldTour. This year’s Tour will be likely won in the individual time trials, and lost on the mountains. My guess is they will again try to strangle the race with their lineup of Rohan Dennis, Richie Porte, Geoghegan Hart, and Carapaz, and then let Thomas do his thing in the individual time trials. I could see them racing more aggressively in the Vuelta or the Giro, but not at the Tour.