Dave Brailsford has strongly hinted that Team Ineos will line up behind Chris Froome and the British rider's quest to win a fifth Tour de France. Last year the team won the Tour through Geraint Thomas, while Froome finished third after winning the Giro d'Italia.
The pair have not raced together this year, with Froome currently taking part at the Critérium du Dauphiné and Thomas set to lead Team Ineos at the Tour de Suisse later this month. Although Thomas will start the Tour de France with dossard number one on his back as the reigning champion, Froome seemingly has an advantage in terms of leadership. Brailsford stopped short of declaring Froome as the official team leader, but stated that the goal of helping Froome join an illustrious group of five-time Tour de France winners was a major goal.
"We're going to do all we can to support Chris in his bid to win a fifth Tour, to cement his place in history and join the exclusive club of five-time winners. Sport is full of history and legends. We have to try and do great things, but we also have other riders to manage, too, like Geraint [Thomas] and Egan [Bernal]," Brailsford told Cyclingnews and other media at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Bernal was meant to lead Ineos at the Giro d'Italia, but a training crash on the eve of the race ruled him out due to a broken collarbone. Last year, Bernal made his debut at the Tour de France and was a key supporter for both Froome and Thomas. He would tow Froome back if dropped, and set the pace on Alpe d'Huez when LottoNL-Jumbo took the race to the British team in dramatic fashion.
Bernal will now race Suisse with Thomas before returning to the Tour de France. Brailsford hinted that Bernal would once again support Froome and Thomas at the Tour, but that the Colombian rider would have his chance at some point in the future.
"It's been unfortunate for Egan that he fell a few days before the Giro and broke his collarbone, so that's been difficult for him," Brailsford told RMC and Cyclingnews. "He returned to Colombia and now he's back in Andorra. He'll do the Tour se Suisse. Before the Giro he was in great shape, and he's only 22 years old.
"He's at the beginning of his career compared to Chris and Geraint, who are older. He is still discovering his abilities in terms of where he can go. Comparing him to Geraint and Chris, they're experienced riders. We've worked with them for a long time now, and when the time comes for Egan to step up, then I don't think there'll be a problem between the riders," he said.
Froome has looked impressive during the opening three days at the Dauphine. He was in the key selection on stage 2, and is a likely contender to wear yellow by the close of the stage 4 time trial in Roanne on Wednesday afternoon.
"It's been a hard start to the race – two hard days – and yesterday was very hard," Brailsford continued. "It was quite cold today [Tuesday] for the whole peloton, and that has its impact. The time trial isn't an easy time trial. It's quite an interesting time trial, and it'll actually be good to get a real gauge, to see the performance there. Then it's into the hardest part of the race. So it's been an interesting start, but I don't think the race has really started yet. Tomorrow, for sure, is going to have an impact."