After one Tour stage, only two Ineos riders are left within two minutes of yellow

Tao Geoghegan Hart at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var.

by Dane Cash

photography by Cor Vos


The crash-marred opening stage of the 2021 Tour de France was not kind to the Ineos Grenadiers. Among the many teams that saw multiple riders hit the deck in one of two huge pileups in the last 50 km of the stage, the British WorldTour squad finished the day with half of its quartet of Grand Tour stars losing big chunks of time on the overall leaderboard.

Richie Porte, who finished third at last year’s Tour, would arrive at the Landerneau finish line 2:16 down on stage winner Julian Alaphilippe. Tao Geoghegan Hart, who won last year’s Giro d’Italia, lost 5:33 on the day. After just one day at the Tour, only 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas and 2019 Giro winner Richard Carapaz are within two minutes of yellow.

“Happy to get through it. Gutted about Richie and Tao,” Thomas said immediately after the finish.

Thomas took 10th on the day, six seconds back on Alaphilippe, with Carapaz arriving behind a small split and therefore finishing 13 seconds down.

“It was stressful, a few crashes. Obviously, that big crash at the end, I had no idea who was in it,” Thomas said. “It ended up being Richie who was in it, which wasn’t great. I was just concentrated on staying on the bike basically.”

Coming into the race, the Ineos Grenadiers avoided making any clear pronouncements about the roles of the team’s quartet of GC stars, with team principal Dave Brailsford promising a “more adventurous approach” than the strategies the team has employed in the post and telling the world to “expect the unexpected.” Theoretically, the presence of four riders who might be the singular Grand Tour leaders on other squads gave the Ineos Grenadiers the flexibility to go on the attack with multiple options.

Thomas and Carapaz still have each other, of course, and could still opt for a more aggressive approach than normal, but long-range attacks from Porte or Geoghegan Hart will no longer strike the same amount of fear into the hearts of the team’s rivals. At the very least, the Ineos Grenadiers did seem aware ahead of the Tour that all four of the team’s stars might not remain in contention through the race.

As Thomas put it in the team’s pre-Tour press conference, “Something will happen to somebody, as it always does.”

Unfortunately for the Ineos Grenadiers, something happened to more than one somebody on the opening stage of the 2021 Tour. Whatever the Ineos Grenadiers had planned before the Grand Départ, with 20 stages still to go, the team that has won seven of the last nine Tours de France already finds itself on the back foot.

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