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Ineos Grenadiers 2022 Tour de France Team Analysis

Ineos Grenadiers

INEOS has traditionally been the high watermark standard for Tour de France success. The squad has won 7 Tours de France in their existence, with Chris Froome, Egan Bernal, Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas all contributing to their unrivalled dominance. These riders were undoubtedly elite, however, INEOS’ major drawcard has been the strength of its team that has guided its leaders to victory with consummate professionalism and ease. With the surge of Slovenian Mountain GOATS; Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar, INEOS has been left in a position of limbo. They no longer have the strongest rider, such as Chris Froome in the mid-2010s and equally have a comparatively weakened team to their competitors: Jumbo-Visma and UAE.

Geraint Thomas in yellow on the Champs Elysees in 2018

What is the likely Ineos Grenadiers Tour de France team?

INEOS’ team construction for the Tour de France is very methodical. Generally, the team comprises of a designated leader for the General Classification along with a clutch of mountain domestiques and a rouleur/team captain. Let’s start at the top with their leader:

Potential Leaders

Traditionally, INEOS will go into the Tour de France with one leader. However, the strength of the Slovenians has undermined this strategy and the team is looking for a more flexible leadership hierarchy.

Richard Carapaz and Egan Bernal, their leaders in the past 3 Tour de France editions and best GC options, are likely unavailable. Bernal suffered a downright atrocious injury during early season training in Colombia, while Carapaz was overhauled in the finale of the Giro d’Italia. The team has signalled it would prefer Carapaz to ride in the Vuelta.

Instead, Daniel Felipe Martinez has put his hand up. Martinez chaperoned Bernal during his 2021 Giro victory and has capitalised on this momentum in 2022, by winning the Tour of the Basque Country and finishing on the podium at both Paris-Nice and Volta ao Algarve. Although his current form at Tour de Suisse has been less than ideal and his at times mindless descending, Martinez is an ideal candidate. Adam Yates is a viable rider for co-leadership or super domestique duties. Yates has the level to match Pogacar on occasion, such as the Jebel Hafeet (UAE Tour) annual showdown, however, the Yates name is synonymous with polarisation and juxtaposition. Whether it be Simon or Adam, the twins are susceptible to “off-days” seemingly more than any other rider.

Unfortunately, this is a microcosm of INEOS’ current state. Their leaders have nagging weaknesses that are sure to be exploited and their peak climbing is evidently a notch lower than the Slovenians.

Geraint Thomas & Dani Martinez
Geraint Thomas & Dani Martinez

Mountain Domestiques

Throughout the modern history of the TDF, the INEOS mountain train has sparked unconscionable fear into the hearts of other teams and many a supporter, myself included. It was a passage of cycling where the Sky “Mountain train” as they were, would robotically ride to their prescribed numbers, as if holding their own private science experiment.  However, INEOS no longer have the luxury to ride in this manner and neither has the quality of resources to impose its will on others.

Richie Porte rode the Giro and has publicly stated that he will not ride the Tour, perhaps for the best given his 2021 form in the race. Pavel Sivakov and Ben Tulett rode the Giro and Carlos Rodriguez is listed to ride his first grand tour in Spain. Youngster Luke Plapp is unlikely to start as well despite fantastic neo-pro form as this is his first year, they are more likely to ease him into it at a different Grand Tour. Other options such as Andrey Amador, Brandon Rivera, Laurens de Plus and Eddie Dunbar also do not ring “INEOS Tour de France rider” right away.

A shoo-in though is the ever-dependable Jonathan Castroviejo, perhaps the most under-estimated domestique in domestique-ing history. Castroviejo rode the Giro-Tour double last year and was usually Carapaz’s last man in 2021. INEOS should also take Geraint Thomas. His form in the Tour de Suisse has been sparkling and if he is able to replicate it, he will be an imperative helper in the last 10 major ascents. Of course, he was infamously axed from the team last season due to poor pre-TDF form, but this has clearly been rectified this year. Tao Geoghegan Hart has underperformed following his 2020 Giro win but has shown signs of life again. He was 5th in Norway and 8th in the recent Criterium du Dauphine, likely his highest level since that Giro d’Italia. While he has not fully re-captured his Giro form, he seems to be building and it is clear at his peak, that he could be beneficial to the team and even go for breakaway victories.

(Important to note that Hart is not listed on FirstCycling in their potential team, but they might pick him based on form).

Jonathan Castroviejo 2020
Jonathan Castroviejo at the 2020 Giro d’Italia

Rouleurs

The team to this point has 5 riders comprising of 2 leaders and 3 mountain domestiques. However, the hardest section of all is the rouleurs section. INEOS actually has the most strength-in-depth here, it’s a shame this was not reversed with GC leaders.

It goes without saying (although I’m still going to say it) that Luke Rowe is picked. Rowe has been a stalwart of INEOS’ Tour de France teams since 2014 and a team without Rowe is no INEOS Tour team at all at this point. He will serve as team captain surveying his experience to other riders and will be imperative during the cobblestone stage and/or potential echelon stages during this Tour de France.

Filippo Ganna will ride for the 2 book-ending time trials and is a huge engine on the flat and medium mountains. INEOS has all but confirmed his inclusion and this seems to be a reasonable bid for stages.

The final option is an interesting one. There are 4 potential candidates in my mind:

Dylan van Baarle, Michal Kwiatkowski, Ethan Hayter and Tom Pidcock

To be honest, I would not pick Luke Rowe given these options, but it’s INEOS after all so we have to accept it. As part of the slight resource diversification that INEOS has gone through it will be interesting to see if they pick a punchy sprinter or go full in on GC support.

Luke Rowe on the Kemmelberg during 2019 Gent Wevelgem

Ethan Hayter and Tom Pidcock have both had slightly underwhelming seasons but are almost certain to top 5 or 10 multiple stages. Hayter has been the quicker one, having podium-ed multiple Dauphine stages and he would be preferable to Pidcock as of this season’s results and also the fact that he is a better climber. Also to be noted is that Pidcock returned a positive Covid test at the Tour de Suisse.

However, INEOS may choose the GC support lane; picking either Kwiatkowski or Van Baarle. This is a relatively easier one despite both having stellar credentials. Van Baarle is simply the better rider in all but hilly terrain. He is arguably a top 3 rider in the world in the cobblestones, having won Paris Roubaix and will be crucial on Stage 5 in supporting his GC leaders or going for the win in Arenberg. Kwiat has declined in recent memory despite having won Amstel and should not be selected as he is objectively a worse rider than DVB.

I think INEOS will slightly diversify their resources. They have already done it in one-week stage races as shown by Hayter in Dauphine and the signing of Viviani, conceding that they no longer are the strongest GC team. It is for this reason that I think they may pick Hayter, instead of Van Baarle (although I would still pick him in place of Rowe).

This means that INEOS’ expected team is:

  • Daniel Martinez
  • Adam Yates
  • Jonathan Castroviejo
  • Geraint Thomas
  • Tao Geoghegan Hart
  • Luke Rowe
  • Filippo Ganna
  • Ethan Hayter

Recommended Team (Without Rowe):

  • Daniel Martinez
  • Adam Yates
  • Jonathan Castroviejo
  • Geraint Thomas
  • Tao Geoghegan Hart
  • Dylan Van Baarle
  • Filippo Ganna
  • Ethan Hayter