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
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