Ineos still have a ‘Bri­tish heart’, in­sists Brails­ford

Team prin­ci­pal hits back as Froome and Thomas miss Tour McLaren to end in­volve­ment in WorldTour af­ter two years

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tom Cary

Sir Dave Brails­ford has re­jected sug­ges­tions that Ineos have “turned their backs” on Bri­tish rid­ers in the wake of their de­ci­sion to jet­ti­son Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas from this year’s Tour de France squad. Brails­ford said that, on the con­trary, he was look­ing at “de­vel­op­ing a new project” based around sup­port­ing the best young tal­ent in the coun­try.

Three days out from the start of this year’s race in the French Riviera, where the Colom­bian Egan Ber­nal will spear­head the team’s at­tempts to win their eighth mail­lot jaune in nine years, Brails­ford was adamant his team still had a “Bri­tish heart” at its core.

Luke Rowe, of Wales, will be the only Bri­tish rider in Ineos’s eight­man line-up this year, with an Ecuadorean, Richard Cara­paz, and a Rus­sian, Pavel Si­vakov, play­ing the main sup­port­ing roles along­side Ber­nal, last year’s win­ner.

It is the first time the team have gone to a Tour without a Bri­ton ei­ther lead­ing or co-lead­ing af­ter a decade of sup­port­ing first Sir Bradley Wig­gins, then Froome, then Thomas.

Brails­ford, who was speak­ing from OGC Nice’s foot­ball sta­dium, where his team yes­ter­day of­fi­cially changed their name to the Ineos Gre­nadiers af­ter the 4x4 ve­hi­cle de­vel­oped by Sir Jim Rat­cliffe’s petro­chem­i­cals com­pany, said he was look­ing to re­dress the bal­ance.

“It may feel like we’re turn­ing our back on Bri­tish cy­cling, but it’s ac­tu­ally the op­po­site,” he in­sisted. “We are a team with a Bri­tish heart and while we have be­come more in­ter­na­tional, I guess, what we are not do­ing is turn­ing our backs in any way, shape or form on Bri­tish cy­cling. I’m very much look­ing to de­velop a new project based around sup­port­ing young [Bri­tish] tal­ent.”

Ineos last week an­nounced the sign­ing of Bury-born Adam Yates from Mitchel­ton-Scott. The 28-year-old fin­ished fourth at the Tour in 2016, when he won the best young rider jersey. And while that re­mains his best grand tour fin­ish, his twin, Si­mon, has won the Vuelta a Es­pana. Brails­ford be­lieves Ineos can help Adam to be­come a grand tour win­ner, too, in time.

He also cited young rid­ers such as Tom Pid­cock and Ethan Hayter, who is al­ready on Ineos’s books.

“You know we had that gen­er­a­tion of won­der­ful Bri­tish tal­ent that came through, with Cav [Mark Cavendish], G [Thomas], Swifty [Ben Swift], all those guys, and there’s a good bunch of tal­ented Bri­tish rid­ers dot­ted around var­i­ous teams at the minute.

“So I think while we have had that Bri­tish con­tin­gent for the last few years, we want to push now in terms of Bri­tish de­vel­op­ment, and make sure the Bri­tish suc­cess we’ve had in cy­cling is con­tin­ued. If any­thing, we’re turn­ing more to­wards Bri­tish cy­cling, en­gag­ing more with it, than the op­po­site.”

Brails­ford also re­jected sug­ges­tions that ei­ther Froome or Thomas had been “dropped” by Ineos. Nei­ther was in Tour-win­ning shape, he said, so it made sense to re­pur­pose their sea­sons around the Vuelta a Es­pana and Giro d’Italia re­spec­tively. Brails­ford said both men took the news well.

As far as this year’s Tour is con­cerned, Brails­ford said his team would be go­ing in with an at­ti­tude of “noth­ing to lose”, whereas ri­vals Jumbo-Visma and Groupama-FDJ would be “feel­ing the pres­sure.”

“Yes, we’ve got some older, ex­pe­ri­enced heads around them, but we have a mix of young guys who could do an­other 10 Tours,” he said. “The fact that Egan has al­ready won it means the pres­sure is not on him. Whereas if you’ve never won the Tour, and you’re 30 years old and you think this is your chance, I think the pres­sure is on you.

“For me, the Roglics [Pri­moz Roglic], the Du­moulins [Tom Du­moulin], the Pinots [Thibaut Pinot] … time is pass­ing them by. They need to win it now or they’re never go­ing to win it.”

Mean­while, it was an­nounced yes­ter­day that McLaren’s in­volve­ment in WorldTour cy­cling would end af­ter just two years.

The iconic car-maker’s co-spon­sor­ship of the for­mer BahrainMer­ida team was touted as a chal­lenge to the dom­i­nant Team Ineos, with Rod Elling­worth join­ing as team prin­ci­pal and Cavendish one of the mar­quee sign­ings.

But in a state­ment the team, bankrolled by the Bahrain royal fam­ily, said McLaren was “re­turn­ing its fo­cus to four wheels”. McLaren has suf­fered huge losses dur­ing the Covid-19 cri­sis, mak­ing about 1,200 po­si­tions re­dun­dant.

Next gen­er­a­tion: Sir Dave Brails­ford, pic­tured (right) with Chris Froome, said Ineos re­mained com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing Bri­tish cy­clists

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