And we waited.
We waited so long that it turned into Tuesday and still nothing. The appearances promised by video or otherwise from the team’s management did not happen and so we can only assume that we have to make our own deductions on what to say about the all-conquering setup that has controlled and won seven out of eight of recent tours. When you say nothing, then others, in this case the media, will fill the information void for you.
I know assuming anything is a recipe for disaster, but in this case the questions that were waiting to be asked went unanswered, even after Dave Brailsford finally broke the blanket and spoke with a reporter Tuesday.
Let’s start with the obvious. What happened to Egan Bernal? Could his disappearance on the slopes of the Grand Colombier be due to a back pain reported at the Critérium de Dauphiné? If so, why was he off for a practice race the day after he retired from the pre-Tour race.
Looking at how the defending champion gradually got worse around Week 3 instead of improving as the team promised, you can only deduce that something went wrong in his form planning. He looks tired, exhausted, cool and he can’t be too short which means his workout is to be blamed.
Apply the same respect to the rest of Ineos and aside from Michal Kwiatkowski they have all been below par. Amador and especially Sivakov have extenuating circumstances due to being injured in accidents. I’ve seen them having to warm up before stages to make sure they’re ready for the pain they’ll have to go to, but where have the others gone?
There were cameos when the team took temporary control of the peloton and tried to dictate the pace, however, it was an illusion, and the only people they hurt were themselves.
Since the resumption of races, we have seen that the team has not won and it has been said that the level has changed. At the Dauphiné it was Jumbo-Visma who was in charge and there was the suggestion that the Dutch team had peaked too early. Well that didn’t happen, even slightly, and teams like Sunweb, Bora and EF Pr Cycling had more of an effect on the race than Dave Brailsford’s team.
We have been continually told that winning the Tour is the sole goal of the UK based team and the selections made, the planning done in advance and every little detail reviewed to ensure their victory. Except that everything has gone wrong in this year affected by COVID-19. Despite the pillows and light wheels.
They have two days left to recover a stage victory, but I would be surprised if one of the riders does. They have been prepared and trained to catch the tempo, not to accelerate or win sprints. As we have seen with Lennard Kämna dropping Giro winner Richard Carapaz on stage 16, the discomfort runs deep.
You could argue that their usual plan was upended by the virus, but other teams have handled the situation better. Perhaps we should remember what the team leadership said in 2015 regarding their five-year plan.
“Our mission for 2020 is very simple: that Team Sky is unquestionably and consistently the best cycling team in the world.
Here we are in 2020 and the pride of the declaration is evident. They haven’t been consistent this year and they also appear to be challenged.
Recent interviews given by Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome have only added to the confusion over recent selections and decisions. It seems everyone has forgotten about the situation in mid-August, when none of the drivers were good enough on the Dauphiné, as they said they expected a leadership role for the Tour .
They weren’t selected because their shape just wasn’t where it needed to be, so it’s fine to suggest now that things would have been different. They wouldn’t be because, as we’ve seen, the Ineos pilots are in better shape than they were with Roglič and company. You can’t say I didn’t deserve the selection one week and then change it the following week.
Dave Brailsford and his Sporting Director put together their best team based on the information at the time and now we are in the Tour, they missed out. Having Thomas or Froome in France wouldn’t have changed that because it looks like a collective failure.
Therefore, we are silencing the reasons for this failure, because when you have said that you have the best people, the best support, the science and the talent that a considerable budget can buy, then legitimate questions will be asked. For example, what do you think happened, what lessons will be learned and why are other teams doing a better job with less than half the resources?
Would it have been better to give your young riders a chance instead of continually buying someone who wins the biggest stage races? Because it doesn’t necessarily create a core group that feels valued and respected.
When you dominate like Sky / Ineos did, there comes a point where it starts to unravel, history tells us. What matters now is how you handle this situation and how courteous you are in defeat.