Today, in Team Ineos news, the riders enter their second rest day and get a much-needed chance to regroup. Stage 15 of the 2020 Tour de France brought a major setback for the Ineos Grenadiers, as defending champion Egan Bernal lost more than seven minutes to Primoz Roglic and the team’s chances at victory are looking precarious.
Bernal fell victim to the Jumbo Visma train that spearheaded the 17.5km ascent of the Grand Colombier, the first time the mountain had been used as a summit finish in the Tour.
As the main contenders reached the foot of the climb, yellow jersey Roglic was supported by four domestiques – Wout van Aert, Tom Dumoulin, Sepp Kuss and George Bennett – while Bernal sat with Michael Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Castroviejo.
What happened next not only saw Bernal drop out of contention for retaining his Tour de France title but highlighted the role reversal between Team Ineos and Jumbo Visma at this year’s Tour.
Van Aert continues to impress
Wout Van Aert secured his reputation as the best all-rounder in world cycling yesterday as he set a ferocious pace at the front of the GC group, bringing Roglic up the first 8km of the 7.5% final ascent.
As the Dutchman wound up the pressure on the other GC contenders, Nairo Quintana and fellow Columbian Bernal were spat out the back of the group – and both began to haemorrhage time.
While Catroviejo and Kwiatkowski remained strong and dropped back to support their team leader, it was clear Bernal didn’t have the legs to compete with Roglic and his team yesterday.
In fact, such was the Columbian’s suffering, once Van Aert finally dropped off the front to allow Dumoulin to take control, he was able to drop back and sit on Bernal’s wheel to get towed the rest of the way up the climb.
As Bernal finally crossed the line, he found himself eight minutes, 25 seconds behind Roglic in the General Classification, out of the top ten, and out of contention.
What is even more telling is Roglic and Bernal went toe to toe on exactly the same climb only a few weeks ago during the Tour de l’Ain. On that day Bernal, Roglic and Quintana were among the first riders to reach the summit, with Bernal ultimately losing only four seconds on the day.
That stage was the final day of a three-stage race, the two looking well matched. While just a few weeks later, 15 stages into three weeks at the Tour, we can see a staggering difference between the form of the two riders.
Jumbo Visma steal Team Ineos’ crown
The control that has been displayed by Jumbo Visma in 2020 has been increasingly reminiscent of the dominance Team Ineos (and Sky before that) exhibited in Grand Tours during the past decade.
Ever since Bradley Wiggins became the first British Tour de France winner in 2012, Sky/Ineos have commanded the world’s biggest cycling race, having won every year since except for in 2014, when Vincenzo Nibali took advantage of Chris Froome crashing out of the race.
What is most striking, however, is the style Sky/Ineos havev adopted through those years. Filling their team with exceptional domestiques to support their incredibly strong GC riders.
Every year we were used to seeing big Sky/Ineos trains going into climbs, setting a terrifying pace that meant other, isolated, GC contenders wilted or were so deep in the red they were unable to launch a realistic attack themselves. Having been supported all the way up the climbs, the Sky GC riders were comparatively fresher and able to attack closer to the summits.
Perhaps most infamously we saw this on Stage Eight of the 2016 Tour where Chris Froome attacked off the top of the Col du Peyresourde after Sky had slowly forced all the other GC competitors into submission. He would go on to claim the stage win as well as 13 seconds from his rivals.
While Ineos have, at times, looked to employ similar tactics this year, it hasn’t proved as effective. Jumbo Visma have had such depth of talent, strength and tactical nouse this year, any team would find it hard to compete.
Having said that, Ineos as the next strongest team on paper, find themselves way out of contention, whereas riders from teams without anything like the level of support for their GC riders are still up there – Pogacar being the obvious candidate.
Further, given how strong Catroviejo and Kwiatkowski looked yesterday, it seems this year was more a question of Ineos not having a GC candidate strong enough to go all the way.
What’s clear is pre-race predictions that if Roglic grabbed the yellow jersey he would keep it all the way to Paris are looking spot on.
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