The artist formerly known as the Sky train has returned to Grand Tour racing.
On stage four of the 2022 Giro d’Italia, where the peloton met their first uphill test on Mount Etna, the Ineos Grenadiers returned to what they know best, hitting the front and drilling the pace, just like the good old days when they won Grand Tours for fun.
Despite one moment of slight confusion where it appeared Richard Carapaz may have temporarily dropped the wheel, it sent a clear message from Ineos that they are feeling strong at this Giro, and that in Carapaz they have a contender they believe in. Their opponents had warned in Budapest the team was looking at their imperial best and so it proved at the very first opportunity.
The only problem was, what was the point? Sure, Tom Dumoulin was distanced, the Dutchman answering his own question mark as to where he’s at, while the British squad also unceremoniously dropped Vincenzo Nibali as he raced home roads for the final time at the Italian Grand Tour. Neither was a top favorite for this Giro.
In the final few metres, all of the other main GC contenders were still there. Ineos mostly succeeded in dropping its own domestiques, leaving only had Richie Porte leading Richard Carapaz after burning the likes of Pavel Sivakov, who could have proved a useful pawn later on in the race had he maintained the same overall time. In sight of the finish line the Ecuadorian hit out, leading the GC group home with Romain Bardet behind, but with no time gaps created.
“Am I getting it wrong, are Ineos getting the pink jersey here today?” Sean Kelly asked on Eurosport commentary. “They’ve been riding, they’ve been controlling the race, and they’ve done nothing, they’ve got nothing out of it. I know they’ve got rid of some of the big favourites but I think that would have happened anyway and they’ve used up so much power here today just to demonstrate how strong a team they are at a point in the race when it’s, for me, much too early.”
“At the end of the day,” Richie Porte said last week following a Classic campaign where Ineos delighted in their attacking – and winning – racing. “If we have to revert back to the old Sky tactics of riding the train, we’ll do that.”
“On paper, we have one of the strongest teams, call it boring but it’s not boring winning bike races like the Giro.”
The stage is being set, and if it’s going to be Ineos train vs the rest, this Giro’s crop of contenders could (hopefully) make for the most interesting battle yet.