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As the Ineos Grenadiers ride into the final week of the Tour de France with a new set of priorities now that Egan Bernal is no longer in contention for yellow, team principal Dave Brailsford has defended the squad’s Tour roster selection.
According to The Guardian, Brailsford noted that critics of Ineos’s Tour lineup selection are “not privy to the facts that I’ve got,” and rejected the notion that it was a “gamble” to go with the Tour roster that the team ultimately decided upon, a roster that did not feature either Chris Froome or, more surprisingly, Geraint Thomas.
“It was a good decision, regardless of what anybody else may think,” Brailsford said of leaving Thomas out of the Tour team.
Ineos announced shortly after last month’s Critérium du Dauphiné that Thomas would race the Giro d’Italia with Froome heading to the Vuelta a España instead of taking on the Tour as previously planned. Richard Carapaz, who had initially been expected to lead the team at the Giro, was brought in for the Tour.
As the Tour unfolded, it became clear that Carapaz was not quite at his best, dropping out of the GC picture before the first rest day. Now that Bernal has dropped out of Tour contention as well, the team is left without a bona fide podium hopeful for the first time since Froome crashed out of the 2014 Tour.
Meanwhile, although Froome rode a quiet Tirreno-Adriatico this week, Thomas put in a strong performance to secure second overall in the Italian WorldTour race.
“Chris is where Chris is at. He’s just not ready yet for this level of competition and I think he knows that himself. He’s doing a fantastic job of getting back to where he needs to be, but on both of those fronts, we will go back and see what we can learn,” Brailsford said.
“I’d never judge myself on somebody else’s narrative, to be honest. I think we will look back at what information we had at the time – did we get it right, did we get it wrong, can we learn – but I’m actually very pleased to see Geraint doing so well at Tirreno-Adriatico and looking so good going into the Giro d’Italia.”
As for Bernal, Brailsford said that the team will try to figure out why things didn’t work out this year. After initially struggling in the finale of stage 13, the 2019 Tour champ cracked completely on stage 15, losing over seven minutes and dropping out of GC contention entirely. On Tuesday’s 16th stage, he finished with the gruppetto.
“We are monitoring him carefully,” Brailsford said. “He’s not in pain. It’s more a case of assessing what went wrong, which is what we are doing.
“Clearly there was something wrong because that wasn’t his normal performance on Sunday. He wouldn’t normally be out of that lead group – he might be 30 seconds better, 30 seconds worse – but he’d be in the mix. But he’s proud, it’s not in his nature to quit.”
Brailsford insisted that Bernal would bounce back in the future, emphasizing his talent and maturity at such a young age. That said, the Ineos boss also acknowledged that his team faces a challenge like nothing it has faced before with the emergence of Jumbo-Visma as a powerhouse in the peloton.
“Jumbo have been building that team for three or four seasons and it’s great to see it. I admire what they have done, and they’ve got my utmost respect,” he said. “Have we got to go back to the drawing board? Totally – and that’s quite exciting in some respects. We’ve got to put together a team and a coaching staff that can deliver and try and win the race again.”