Bernal’s departure from the battle scene at the time, and his subsequent exit from the race two days later, was a historic low point for the team formerly known as Sky.
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But when 21-year-old Slovenian Tadej Pogacar celebrated his country’s first Tour victory a week later, a key unanswered question was whether Ineos’ time in yellow was really over.
“If you’ve been somewhere once, like winning the Tour, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go back. Bernal is a huge talent, and that’s why they signed him, ”said Sean Yates, the former sporting director of the team that oversaw their first Tour triumph in 2012 with Bradley Wiggins.
“This time around Bernal’s training was maybe not what it should have been during the lockout and there was a drop in performance. He also had back pain.
“However, next year it will be much more difficult ground: you will have Pogacar who will try to come back to win, [Belgian prodigy] Remco Evenepoel, and obviously Primoz Roglic [the Jumbo-Visma rider who was spectacularly defeated by Pogacar at the weekend] come back for more. ”
Yates adds that “it would be very unwise to also cancel Chris Froome” of the 35-year-old four-time winner who will leave Ineos at the end of the year.
“I would be surprised if he could get on the podium, however. He will do all he can, but he is not getting any younger.
Ineos team manager Dave Brailsford has insisted his squad return to their previous level the day after Bernal’s split, and part of that process seems to be stepping up their search for young British names to bolster their ranks.
Tom Pidcock, the former junior, world and European Under-23 champion, is set to sign for Ineos, while Adam Yates of Bolton, the Mitchelton-Scott rider who has led the race for four days this month- Ci, is another big name related to the team. .
It is hoped that 25-year-old Londoner Tao Geoghegan Hart, who has been with Ineos since 2016, could step up his game in this fall’s races as well.
The rest of the season will also be crucial to see what direction the British squad can take for their current leaders.
The winner of the Tour de France 2018, Geraint Thomas, who along with Froome was excluded from this year’s squad, will spearhead the Giro d’Italia challenge next week, while the defending Giro, Richard Carapaz, will co-direct alongside Froome in the Vuelta a Espana in October. However, no date has yet been set for Bernal’s return to racing.
One of the biggest paradoxes of cycling, however, is that it is a team sport won by individuals and Sean Yates warns that “2020 was the first time Ineos had a team, in Jumbo -Visma, at his level. Other teams have also realized that it is not impossible to beat Ineos, whereas before they were second or third.
Despite his ties to the team, Yates believes that the emergence of rivals who can challenge and defeat Ineos is good news for cycling as a whole.
“For the sake of everyone, dominating one team year after year is not healthy for the sport, and it’s great that other people are coming with us. Because that only adds to the excitement.