Ineos Grenadiers must try to win Tour de France, says Steve Cummings

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With the 2023 Tour de France route finally unveiled in Paris last week, discussions have already focused on the list of possible contenders for the yellow jersey.

Topping most lists are the last two winners of the race, Jonas Vingaard and Tadej Pogačar, but while this pair share the majority of the spotlight, Ineos Grenadiers believe they too can have a say in the outcome end of the race.

It remains unclear who will line up for the British team on July 1 when the race starts from Bilbao, but a combination of Egan Bernal, Tom Pidcock and Dani Martinez looks most likely at this stage.

Geraint Thomas, who won the race in 2018 and was third behind Vingaard and Pogačar in 2022, has already hinted at a return to the Giro d’Italia in his final season, while Adam Yates and Richard Carapaz have both left team for new pastures. .

Read also: The complete route of the Tour de France 2023

Steve Cummings has analyzed the 2023 course over the past few days and believes Ineos has the ability to mount a realistic GC challenge, while chasing stage wins. He stopped short of confirming the leadership candidates and instead emphasized the depth within the team.

“What I see are a lot of opportunities in this Tour route for us,” he said. BikeNews.

Most of Ineos’ grand tour planning will take place in November and December during scheduled training and management camps. A key discussion will be how the team can bridge the gap between itself and the two most dominant stage racers in the world right now.

“We have to race to try to win, find out what the gap is between the others and work as hard as we can to close it. Ideally we want to win the race overall, but if we can’t we have to support a challenge. GC until the end and try to win the stage every day,” added Cummings.

“It’s about winning and ultimately we want to win. We have to try to win. If we can’t win the GC, it just gives us opportunities to win stages. At 100%, we can mount a daunting challenge. We did it this year, and we can do it again, but with a different driver. Even if Geraint could start again.

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“I think we have runners who can challenge. From the data, we have a few that can climb within a million miles of the top two. It’s about bridging that gap and it’s up to the entire performance support team, coaches, managers and riders. Maybe there are improvements to be made in training and nutrition, and then we try to apply that to runners. Dani, Egan and we have Carlos Rodriguez. He had a solid Vuelta, but obviously the Tour is a huge stage, and I don’t know if that’s the path he’ll take or if he’s headed for the Giro. Maybe one of the young guys can take a big step too.

Bernal has already indicated that he would like to return to the Tour de France. He hasn’t taken part in the race since dropping it in 2020. He won the Giro d’Italia the following year and then suffered a life-threatening practice accident that effectively ended his hopes of a grand tour during this campaign.

The Colombian returned to racing at the end of this year, but is still firmly focused on getting back to full fitness and strength. Ineos have given their star Grand Tour rider time and space and they are unwilling to put extra pressure on his shoulders. That said, the 2023 route suits the 2019 winner well. Cummings believes Bernal can get back to where he once was, but that time is still needed before any tour plans can be ironed out.

“It would of course be a fantastic Tour de France if Bernal was at his best, but we don’t know yet if he can make it happen. If anyone can, then he can. We just have to see and these are the questions we have to ask ourselves. He’s probably ahead of schedule, but there’s still a long way to go. On paper it’s a very good Tour for him, but we’re not going to put any extra pressure on a rider who has had a life-threatening accident,” Cummings said.

Whatever the final leadership decision on the team, Cummings identified the early days in the Basque Country and the tough final week in the mountains as the main battlegrounds that will decide the overall standings.

“It’s going to be a super exciting race in the Basque Country and the first three days will be a lot of climbing with around 3,000m of elevation gain,” he said.

“It’s not a typical Tour de France start but it’s going to be chaotic. We will see small groups arrive on the line but I loved racing in the Basque Country. With the race then heading to the Pyrenees, we are going to have real definition in the GC from the start. The race will always be won or lost in the last week with some dirty climbs through stages 14, 15 and 17. I don’t think the Tourmalet will be so decisive unless someone is having a really bad day or the riders of the GC attack early. It is certainly a possibility.

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