Ineos’ goal was to win all three Grand Tours this year, and their victory in the Giro put them on the right track. They could still win La Vuelta. But the Tour, for this year at least, is now beyond their reach.
What’s odd is that we expect Ineos (and Sky before that) to win the Tour. After all, they’ve won seven of the last nine editions. Seven out of ten if we count 2021, which remains a very commendable 70% success rate.
“It was one of the biggest goals of my career! – Van Aert during the victory of the ITT Tour
AN HOUR AGO
Ineos has not won a stage victory this year either. Something even rarer for them than not to win the yellow jersey. Indeed, we have to go back to 2014 for the last edition where they had won neither the general classification nor a single day of racing. It was a pretty disastrous edition of the Tour for Team Sky, losing Chris Froome to a double crash on stage five and failing to really score the race despite his start.
It almost feels like they never really got close to anything from this year’s race, but what are the reasons for this all-time low?
Luck certainly has something to do with it. Geraint Thomas’ fall deprived the team of their pivot, the rider who could be counted on to do well in the TT and climb competently, if not outright with offensive flair. Thomas was unable to shake off the injuries he sustained in Stage 3, when he had his shoulder ‘put back’ on the tarmac, and therefore underperformed in the TT of step 5 accordingly. He was effectively dead in the GC water by that point and, with the Olympics looming as his next goal for the season, he could easily be forgiven for rolling to Paris in a supporting role. .
Today he seemed to be content to take it easy and enjoy the scenery, clocking a time of 3’28 ”slower than stage winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
There is also a question of tactics. Ineos’ declared strategy before the race was to attack with several riders, overwhelming Pogačar and Roglič with their superior number. This raised a few eyebrows during the preparation for the tour due to its similarity to a certain pitchfork-themed strategy used against Team Sky in previous years.
Unfortunately, this capricious approach to the Tour never materialized. Without the foundation provided by Thomas, the most expressive riders on the team – namely Carapaz – wouldn’t be able to take the same risks they might have otherwise. The other points of their trident – or whatever the name of a sharp, four-branched staff might be – were also dulled by early waste of time. Riders like Richie Porte (third overall last year) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Giro champion) could have done a lot more than attack foils on the road to put pressure on Pogacar, if they didn’t. had not lost four and 19 minutes respectively. in the first five days. There was simply no reason for Pogacar to pursue a move containing Ineos.
As a result, Ineos fell into a familiar mountain strategy, setting up a train in front of the pack and setting a tempo. As anyone who has been on the Tour for Movistar over the past decade could have told them, this strategy only works if you actually have the strongest team. This year, the Ineos mountain train did little more than offer a wheelchair ride to Pogacar, who likely enjoyed the lift given his own team was largely absent for much of the race.
It sounded like an inability to improvise, more than anything. The team that had promised an offensive approach to the overall standings probably lost out on a few stage wins by putting all their eggs in Carapaz’s basket and rolling rather defensively.
In 2020, Michal Kwiatkowski won a memorable stage, a picturesque one-two with Carapaz, after the two sneaked into the breakaway of the 18th stage. They were only allowed to take to the road because their overall leader Egan Bernal had abandoned the race. They had lemons and made lemonade. This year, they came out a little sour.
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