Success part of Team Ineos’ present and past. But in Egan Bernal they are also investing in the future

Matt Jones 28/07/2019
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Geraint Thomas gives Egan Bernal a pat on the back as the Colombian all but sealed the Tour de France title.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The late 19th Century French journalist and novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr is credited with penning this epigram and it serves as an apt method with which to wrap up the 2019 Tour de France.

Things change: Egan Bernal, at 22, became the youngest Tour de France champion in 110 years on Sunday, and the first from Colombia.

Things stay the same: and yet, Team Ineos rode to yet another success at cycling’s most lauded event – Bernal’s triumph a seventh year in the last eight a rider wearing Ineos (Team Sky) colours has captured the famed yellow jersey.

Ineos’ grip on, nay, obsession with Le Tour is fascinating. Other teams may be enjoying success – Deceuninck Quick-Step’s number of victories over the last two years is bordering on the ridiculous, while rookie ventures UAE Team Emirates and Bahrain-Merida are making quiet strides.

But Ineos’ thirst for glory and continued pursuit of excellence on cycling’s grandest stage is deservedly keeping the spotlight focused on them.

Even ahead of this year’s race, an out of form and injured Geraint Thomas was seen as the favourite to retain the crown he took from Chris Froome last year. The Welshman hardly shone as he did 12 months earlier, yet he was still more than good enough to be among the leaders throughout.

Eventually finishing runner-up to team-mate Bernal, just 1’ 11” adrift, with the likes of Steven Kruijswijk, Emanuel Buchmann, Julian Alaphilippe, Mikel Landa and Rigoberto Uran not quite able to do enough to give Ineos a thorough inspection.

Bernal was seen as a pre-race favourite – for the young rider’s white jersey, not the yellow. Of the 176 participants from the 22 teams that took to the start line in Brussels on July 6, Bernal was the second youngest – only UAE Team Emirates’ burgeoning Belgian Jasper Philipsen, 21, his junior.

Coming into the race a bright future was being discussed. That future already appears to be here.

He was sort of thrust into the limelight following Froome’s horrific Tour-ending crash in training – which left him with multiple broken bones including a fractured neck, right femur, a broken hip and fractured ribs – while Thomas was lucky to escape serious injury in a crash during Stage 4 at the Tour de Suisse, ending his participation. Both occurred in June, just weeks before the Tour.

Yet, team principal Dave Brailsford had no hesitation in naming Bernal co-leader alongside the reigning champion – perhaps acutely aware that he was ready for the biggest of steps up.

Thomas, who despite admitting to never being at his best during the last month, will feel bitterly disappointed inside at getting so close and being so far away from retaining his title.

And yet, he essentially seemed to willingly fall in line to help his younger Colombian colleague secure the overall – and ultimate – race lead on the shortened penultimate stage to Val Thorens on Saturday.

Success is part of Ineos’ present and past. But in Bernal they are also investing in the future. Never satisfied with what they have they are always seeking to improve and extend their Tour de France legacy, even if Bernal’s ascension to the throne came quicker than expected.

Team-mates Thomas and Froome – winners of the last four Tours and five of the previous six – might be considered at the top of the slope and on their way down the mountains that have been their careers.

Bernal, meanwhile, is at the foot of what could prove a steep and prolonged incline.

Just think, 2019 Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz is set to join them next season. With rumours a two-year contract for the Ecuadorian to move from Movistar to join his fellow South American Bernal is to be announced on August 1, Ineos are making inroads into the future with Thomas, 33, and Froome, 34, entering their twilight.

An exhausted Alaphilippe saw his feint hopes ended on Stage 20.

An exhausted Alaphilippe saw his faint hopes ended on Stage 20.

Imagine an Ineos line-up for the 2020 Tour consisting of all four – the last three champions as well as 26-year-old Giro king, Carapaz. Sure, the debate of team leaders would cause havoc and generate headlines galore. But it would be almost impossible to see anyone beyond them coming out on top once more.

For all this talk of Ineos’ success and stranglehold on cycling’s signature race, it would be remiss of us not to mention another rider.

A thought, or several, must be spared for Alaphilippe – the home hope who wore yellow for 14 of the 2019 Tour’s 21 stages. Who seemed for so long like he might just end 34 years of hurt for the host nation, who hadn’t seen one of their own clamber atop the No1 spot on the podium in Paris since Bernard Hinault won the fifth and final of his Tour titles in 1985.

Alaphilippe deserves plenty of praise for his phenomenal efforts in remaining with the mountain men for most of the race – especially through the torturous Pyrenees and Alps.

Still, even with the career year he is having, he did not possess the reserves to rip away Ineos’ grip on the magnificent maillot jaune.

For Alaphilippe, Quick-Step and indeed the rest of the riders and teams, they all face a struggle to keep up with the pace being set by Ineos.

Most popular

Related Sections

Tour de France 2019: Egan Bernal poised to become youngest champion in the post-war era

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Egan Bernal will stand on the top step in Paris on Sunday as the youngest winner of the Tour de France in the post-war era and the first from Colombia.

As Vincenzo Nibali collected the stage victory in the Alpine ski resort of Val Thorens, the biggest celebrations were at the Team Ineos hotel after their 22-year-old star successfully defended his yellow jersey.

Bernal can now enjoy the fact he will seal a seventh Tour win out of the last eight for his British-registered team.

“I think not,” Bernal said when asked whether his achievement had sunk in. “I’m really happy for sure but when we arrive at the hotel and I will be alone maybe I will believe it.

“I have not won it yet, we have one stage in front of us…but yeah, it’s almost ready. I almost won the Tour.

“It’s our first Tour so you can imagine (the reaction in Colombia). I think it’s really important for us. I’m really proud to be the first Colombian to win the Tour.”

Last year’s winner Geraint Thomas effectively handed over the title as they crossed the line arm in arm in Val Thorens, with the Welshman having moved up himself in the general classification to make it a one-two for Ineos.

Bernal and Thomas crossed the line together with last year's champion set to finish second.

Bernal and Thomas crossed the line together with last year’s champion set to finish second.

Thomas admitted there was a tinge of disappointment to lose his crown, saying this year’s race had been “night and day” compared with 12 months ago.

“Sometimes it felt like any last thing that could go wrong went wrong,” he said. “Even in the run up it wasn’t plain sailing, there were always things happening and sometimes it was tough. I had to stay positive and focused and keep fighting.

“It was great that Egan won and crossing the line today was an amazing feeling and it’s great to be part of it again for the team.

“But from a personal point of view, last year I didn’t have a crash or have one puncture. I felt good every day and I was on a roll, similar to Egan this year. But all you can do is get out there and keep fighting.”

Jumbo-Visma’s Steven Kruijswijk will take the bottom step on the podium after Julian Alaphilippe, who started the day second overall after his remarkable run in yellow, cracked once more on the final day.

Bernal was almost named the winner without a pedal being turned on Saturday as the bad weather which struck on Friday continued in the Alps, and threatened to see the stage from Albertville, already cut from 130km to 59km, abandoned altogether.

But the rain, hail and lightning held off long enough for the race to be run at an aggressive pace given the short distance.

Bahrain-Merida’s Nibali, the 2014 Tour winner but never a contender this year after his efforts in the Giro d’Italia, took the stage win out of the breakaway while Jumbo-Visma set the pace behind, looking to shake off Alaphilippe to get Kruijswijk on the podium.

Nibali made the decisive move on the 33.4km climb to Val Thorens 13 kilometres from the summit, just as Alaphilippe was going the other way off the back of the main group.

This was arguably the weakest Ineos have looked in their long-running dominance of the race, and yet they emerged with their best result since Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome occupied the top two steps of the podium in 2012.

They did not take the yellow jersey until Bernal’s attack on the Col de l’Iseran paid dividends on a weather-shortened Stage 19, and the sight of their riders massed on the front of the peloton setting a pace designed to burn off their rivals has been rare.

But that will not matter to team principal Sir Dave Brailsford, whose investment in the precocious Bernal has paid off sooner than expected.

The Colombian had been pencilled in to lead the team at the Giro in May but after a training crash ruled him out he turned attention to the Tour, where he expected to be supporting Thomas and Froome.

But after Froome’s crash at the Criterium du Dauphine and Thomas’ spill at the Tour de Suisse, Bernal was elevated to co-leader status and has repaid the faith shown in him.

Though he did not win a stage – with no victor named on Stage 19 where he crested the Iseran first – Bernal was consistently attacking in the mountains to make up for the time he lost to Thomas in the Stage 13 time trial.

Most popular

Related Sections

Tour de France: Stage 19 ends in chaos after landslide covers route

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Stage 19 of the Tour de France ended in chaos as hailstorms caused a landslide and forced organisers to stop the race before the final climb.

Organisers declared that times would be taken from the top of the Col de l’Iseran, putting Team Ineos rider Egan Bernal into the yellow jersey after he crested the highest point of the Tour first after attacking out of the group of favourites on the 126.5km stage to Tignes.

Though the peloton could not ride the final climb, Bernal was taken by car to receive his maillot jaune on the podium in Tignes before any official results had been published.

“It’s incredible,” said the 22-year-old, now the clear favourite to become the first Colombian to win the Tour, and the youngest rider in the post-war era.

“When I had the jersey and the lion, I wanted to cry. Tomorrow, I will do my best, but it still hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Bernal had attacked after Ineos team-mate Geraint Thomas and Jumbo-Visma’s Steven Kruijswijk made moves in what proved a successful bid to shake off race leader Julian Alaphilippe, who cracked midway up the Iseran.

When official results for the day did appear, they showed Bernal 48 seconds ahead of Alaphilippe, with Thomas listed one minute and 16 seconds down in third place. Kruijswijk is fourth, one minute 28 down, with Emanuel Buchmann a further 27 seconds back in fifth.

Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said he had mixed feelings about taking the yellow jersey in such circumstances, insisting it was reward for the way his team approached the stage.

“Fortune favours the brave at the end of the day,” said Brailsford.

“We were always going to take today on and I thought the guys rode really well, to be honest…

“We don’t control the weather. In one way, I’m really happy but in another way, I’m still really concerned for everyone else out there.”

Asked if the weather had helped his team win the Tour, as now seems likely, Brailsford replied: “It didn’t. No, we’ll win the Tour de France because of how we ride.”

Commissaries made the call to stop the race after the storms led to a landslide in the valley below Val-d’Isere, with the race route covered in rubble.

Alaphilippe looked frustrated as he climbed into a Deceuninck-Quick Step car as he would have hoped to have taken time back on the long descent, though it will never be known if he could have avoided further losses on the final climb up to Tignes.

It was yet another dramatic twist in the Tour, described as the most exciting edition since 1989, and could well be a decisive one.

Bernal now needs only to survive one final mountain stage on Saturday before potentially celebrating his first Grand Tour victory in Paris a day later.

The neutralisation came as a huge blow to Thomas’ hopes of defending his title. The Welshman may have hoped to bridge the gap to his team-mate in the final 30 kilometres but was denied that opportunity.

Thomas was seen talking to Tour director Christian Prudhomme in Val-d’Isere, but the Frenchman could only gesticulate that there was nothing he could do given the conditions of the road up ahead, where diggers and ploughs were working to clear a path.

It proved a brutal day for French fans, and not just those waiting in Tignes for a race that never arrived.

As Alaphilippe’s grip on yellow was finally loosened, Thibaut Pinot’s dream of becoming the first French winner of the Tour de France for 34 years was ended in cruel circumstances when the Groupama-FDJ rider was forced to abandon just 36 kilometres into the stage.

Pinot had already been seen receiving medical treatment at the back of the peloton but continued to rapidly lose time, and his team revealed it was the result of a muscular injury first suffered on Wednesday when he struck his left leg with a handlebar.

“As he avoided a crash, his left knee hit the handlebar and the pain just got worse,” Groupama-FDJ sports director Philippe Mauduit said.

“We’ve been hoping for an improvement but we knew this morning that it would be complicated if the race was hard. He’s been in pain since the start. It wasn’t possible to keep riding.”

Copy provided by Press Association Sport

Most popular

Related Sections