Podium party in the Pyrenees!
Welcome to the 3rd week of what’s already been a dramatic and rousing Tour de France. Vingegaard in yellow, Tadej Pogacar in frantic attack mode 2:22 minutes behind and 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas chilling in third. Things about to explode, shit gonnna happen.
What we’re about to learn in the Pyrenees is whether INEOS is riding to keep third or rolling the dice, throwing caution to the wind and going all-in for yellow. In other words, we’ll see if INEOS can do a good Jumbo-Visma impression. The one from stage 11, when Roglic and Vingegaard and team attacked Pogacar eight times. They burned him out on the Galibier, then left him for dead on the Col du Granon. It was the kind of thrilling, gutsy racing we rarely see in GC Tour battles.
This is the big conundrum: Will INEOS use their superior strength in numbers again a UAE and Jumbo-Visma squad that have already both lost several climbers? What’s the master plan –passive and safe or bold and ambitious? Cycling journalist Ed Pickering laid out the situation in fine detail at Rouleur.
His point was that in the last few years team boss David Brailsford has bragged about the new aggressive racing style at INEOS, pointing to how Chris Froome won the 2018 Giro d’Italia and Tao Geoghegan Hart did the same thing two years later. Brailsford said that kind racing was “fun.”
Pickering’s reasoning was, really, what do they have to lose? The team has dominated grand tours for years with Froome, Bernal, Thomas and Wiggins. In that illustrious context, is a third place podium anything exciting to write home about? Would that qualify as an amazing triumph in the biggest race of the year?
Personally, I suspect we won’t see INEOS Grenadiers going all-in, willing to lose everything for a shot at yellow and glory. Oh, they’ll be massed at the front but will probably just follow whatever script Pogacar writes. Maybe Geraint Thomas tries one or two “just-checking” attacks but barring disaster or illness third is as high as he’s going — Vingegaard and Pogacar are clearly superior to the Welshman.
In other words, INEOS won’t try out their own version of stage 11 on stage 16 or 17. It’s just a a bridge and several high mountains too far.