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Evaluating Ineos Grenadiers' 12-man Tour de France long list

Grenadiers
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Ineos Grenadiers squad for the Tour de France began to take shape earlier this week when Dave Brailsford confirmed that Geraint Thomas, Richard Carapaz and Tao Geoghegan Hart would all be on the start line in Brest on June 26.

According to the team, the current long-list includes 12 riders, with Egan Bernal still a potential candidate for a place despite his focus on the Giro d’Italia

The majority of the riders on the current list have plenty of Tour experience but only eight riders can eventually be selected for the final team. 

Cyclingnews takes a look at the riders in the frame for a Tour de France place.

Geraint Thomas

  • Age: 34
  • Tours raced: 10
  • Tour pedigree: Winner, 2018. Runner-up, 2019

The route certainly suits Thomas’ characteristics and the team are doing everything within their power to give the Welshman a clear run at a possible second title. Egan Bernal has been dispatched to Italy, Froome has been let go, but now it’s up to Thomas to deliver. 

His 2019 runner-up spot often goes overlooked but it some ways it was a better ride than his 2018 victory given the dreadful run he had going into the race. Similarly, despite missing out on Tour selection last year, the 34-year-old showed up at Tirreno-Adriatico with his best ride in over a year. 

The Giro episode was unfortunate, but a fully fit Thomas is still a match for anyone. With the strongest team in the peloton around him, he’s a genuine contender. There are still some ifs and some buts surrounding his credentials and record in terms of finishing Grand Tours but the indisputable fact is that he will never have a better chance of winning another Tour.

Tao Geoghegan Hart

  • Age: 25
  • Tours raced: 0
  • Tour pedigree: N/A

PIANCAVALLO ITALY OCTOBER 18 Arrival Tao Geoghegan Hart of The United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers Celebration during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 15 a 185km stage from Base Aerea Rivolto Frecce Tricolori to Piancavallo 1290m girodiitalia Giro on October 18 2020 in Piancavallo Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Geoghegan Hart wins at Piancavallo en route to the 2020 Giro title (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Giro d’Italia winner was on the long-list for the Tour last year but a crash knocked him back, he missed the cut, and was designated to support Thomas in Italy. The rest is history and the 25-year-old is fully deserving of his Tour de France spot. 

What his role is this summer will depend on several factors, not least how Thomas and Carapaz stack up, but the British rider is in the perfect position. Thomas and Carapaz have already been anointed by Brailsford as leaders and will therefore draw most of the media pressure and attention for the next few months. 

Geoghegan Hart, on the other hand, can continue to improve at his own pace. As a Grand Tour winner, he will want to do more than just experience the Tour but whether he ends up riding as a super domestique or further establishes himself, he almost can’t lose.

Richard Carapaz

  • Age: 27
  • Tours raced: 1
  • Tour pedigree: 13th overall, 2020

With Thomas pushing 35 and almost two years removed from even finishing a Grand Tour, the role of Carapaz in the team is extremely important. While the route may give Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar the advantage, it’s worth remembering that Carapaz outfoxed the Jumbo rider in the 2019 Giro despite 59.8km of time trialing, and he has a stronger team than UAE Team Emirates at his disposal. 

Carapaz has also been incredibly efficient since his move to Ineos at the start of last year. He took a stage in the Tour de Polonge, crashed hard, but still coped relatively well with being thrown into the Tour at relatively late notice. Under different circumstances, he could have left the race with two stage wins and the KOM jersey, and he held that form all the way through to the Vuelta, where he narrowly lost out on bonus seconds. 

For many, the 27-year-old represents Ineos' best option for the Tour, especially with Bernal targeting the Giro, but Brailsford is correct when he states that the former Giro winner will need to ride an entirely different race to Thomas if he is to challenge. How Ineos protect both riders and serve their needs equally could become one of the Tour’s most exciting sub-plots.

Richie Porte

  • Age: 36
  • Tours raced: 10
  • Tour pedigree: Third overall, 2020

PARIS FRANCE SEPTEMBER 20 Podium Primoz Roglic of Slovenia and Team Jumbo Visma with his son Levom Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia and UAE Team Emirates Yellow Leader Jersey Richie Porte of Australia and Team Trek Segafredo Celebration Trophy Mask Covid safety measures during the 107th Tour de France 2020 Stage 21 a 122km stage from MantesLaJolie to Paris Champslyses TDF2020 LeTour on September 20 2020 in Paris France Photo by Michael SteeleGetty Images

Porte enjoyed a career-best Tour finish in 2020, making the final podium (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

After last year’s podium place in Paris, the Australian has little to prove when it comes to stage racing experience and results, but the best move he made was arguably to call time on his Grand Tour ambitions while they were at their peak, in order to slide into a super domestique role. 

This was always the role Porte excelled at during his first phase as a Team Sky rider, and, with his personal ambitions fulfilled and the pressure off, he focuses his attention towards being the last line of defence or attack in the mountains. 

Whether he’s defending Thomas or Geoghegan Hart, or setting up a Carapaz attack, the Australian is a definite starter and possibly the highest ranked rider who is certain of his exact position in the team this far out.

Rohan Dennis

  • Age: 30
  • Tours raced: 4
  • Tour pedigree: 1 stage win, 2015

It should come as no surprise that Dennis has found a natural home at Ineos. They’re the perfect match for each other. Garmin were too libertarian, BMC talked a good game but weren’t Sky/Ineos, while Bahrain Merida was a calamitous mistake for all parties concerned. However, at Ineos the Australian can excel because so few variables fray at the edges, and big budgets mean that any issue can be overcome. 

Last year’s Giro was proof that Dennis can be the perfect teammate when it matters most, and if Ineos have indeed helped him mature to a level we’ve not seen before, then it’s a benefit for both rider and team. 

A Tour selection does throw up an interesting question over his Olympic bid given the close proximity between the Tour and Tokyo and the possible quarantine rules, but if Dennis remains on point in July he’ll be one of the team’s best assets over the three weeks. The position of the Olympics is the only variable that currently stands in Dennis' way when it comes to being on the Tour team.

Laurens De Plus

  • Age: 25
  • Tours raced: 1
  • Tour pedigree: 23rd overall, 2019

Laurens De Plus Ineos Grenadiers

De Plus joins from Jumbo-Visma after a season of next to no racing (Image credit: Ineos Grenadiers)

The former Jumbo-Visma rider only raced four days in 2020 but he begins a new chapter of his career already on a trajectory that will bring him to the Tour this summer. The 2019 BinckBank Tour winner has only one Tour de France in his locker but that 23rd place and the duties he carried out in the mountains clearly made an impression. 

Brailsford’s hope will be that his acquisition will make Ineos stronger while also weakening a direct rival, but De Plus will need to do more than most on this list to prove that last year’s inactivity and health problems are completely behind him, otherwise it will be a case of next man up.

Luke Rowe

  • Age: 30
  • Tours raced: 6
  • Tour pedigree: Six straight appearances for Ineos

Pound-for-pound still one of the best domestiques in the world, Rowe is almost an automatic pick for the Tour no matter the route or who has been announced as leader. 

His skill set is invaluable in the opening-week skirmishes, while his lighter frame also helps him roll over the short to medium mountains in order to save the pure climbers for the later battles. His selflessness – he’s never in the break – and his consistency are key, and it’s fair to say that he’d walk into any WorldTour team with ambitions of winning the Tour. 

Instant road captain. He's raced six straight Tours for the British team, something that no other rider on this list has been able to do.

Michal Kwiatkowski

  • Age: 30
  • Tours raced: 7
  • Tour pedigree: 11th overall, 2013

Ineos Grenadiers’ Richard Carapaz and Michal Kwiatkowski cross the line together on stage 18 of the 2020 Tour de France, with Kwiatkowski (right) being allowed to edge ahead for the victory

Kwiatkowski has been a staple of the Tour squad and won a memorable 1-2 stage last year (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

There were some question marks over the Polish rider’s Tour credentials heading into last year’s race due to the fact that he hadn’t reached the dizzy heights of his 2017 performance. However, he provided a timely reminder of his class with a commanding stage win in La-Roche-sur-Foron after Ineos bossed the break following Bernal’s demise. 

The former road world champion has established himself as a firm part of the team’s core, having racing every Tour for them after an initially long period to settle at the team back in 2016. It’s hard to envisage a fit and healthy Kwiatkowski not making the Tour team, especially given his versatility.

Dylan van Baarle                   

  • Age: 28
  • Tours raced: 5
  • Tour pedigree: 46th overall, 2019

Brailsford didn’t mention Van Baarle during this week’s press briefing when it came to naming riders in the 'Tour Stream' but the Dutchman is still part of the unofficial long-list that the management are considering. 

A veteran of two straight Tours with the team, the 28-year-old might find his place taken by Dennis, who demonstrated his improvements at last year’s Giro d’Italia. Van Baarle still offers something different, especially during the first week of the Tour, and his ability to soak up pressure will certainly ensure that he remains in the selection conversation for the next few months.

Jonathan Castroviejo

  • Age: 34
  • Tours raced: 6
  • Tour pedigree: 24th overall, 2015

ROCCARASO ITALY OCTOBER 11 Mikkel Bjerg of Denmark and UAE Team Emirates Jonathan Castroviejo of Spain and Team INEOS Grenadiers Larry Warbasse of The United States and Team Ag2R La Mondiale Breakaway during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 9 a 207km stage from San Salvo to Roccaraso Aremogna 1658m girodiitalia Giro on October 11 2020 in Roccaraso Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Castroviejo with a bit of freedom at last year's Giro (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The ultimate team player, Castroviejo left the Tour last year in order to save his legs for the Giro, where he turned himself inside out for his team’s ambitions and was unlucky not to come away with a stage win. 

The Spaniard is a somewhat underrated performer – understandable given the depth within the team – but he remains a favourite within the team for his no-frills approach and consistency. He’s made the Tour team every season since joining in 2018 and would normally look like a likely starter once more but the addition of Porte and de Plus does raise some concerns.

Daniel Martínez

  • Age: 24
  • Tours raced: 2
  • Tour pedigree: 1 stage win, 2020

Last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné winner is scheduled to ride the Giro d’Italia alongside Egan Bernal, and that’s probably the right call. The Colombian’s explosive climbing nature would add strength to any team but Ineos’ approach to the Tour is likely to be based around their time-old principles of strangling the opposition, while allowing Carapaz to use some targeted aggression in order to stretch the race. 

That might leave Martínez’s natural riding style slightly stifled, whereas in the Giro the prospect of him and a resurgent Bernal is a mouthwatering prospect.

Egan Bernal

  • Age: 24
  • Tours raced: 3
  • Tour pedigree: Winner, 2019

Egan Bernal fights the pain at the 20202 Tour de France

Bernal suffered through to his abandon at last year's Tour (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Both Bernal and Brailsford have talked about the Giro being the best option, but a year ago the sheer notion of shifting the Colombian away from the Tour would have seemed unthinkable. However, since his 2019 Tour win, the spring has gone out of Bernal’s step and it’s clear from everything Brailsford has said that the rider needs to find whatever spark or energy he burst onto the scene with. 

That’s a clear indication that either his long-term back injury has been played down or there’s more to his lack of sparkle that meets the eye. Certainly, the Giro route is more appealing, with a shortage of time trials and a glut of mountain stages compared to the Tour, but this a pivotal moment in Bernal’s career, where anything short of victory in Italy will be deemed a failure. 

Whether Bernal makes the Tour team at this point is possibly irrelevant but we all know that everything can change in the blink of an eye. He was originally down for the Giro in 2019 and we all know what happened next. He's on the team's long-list but winning the Giro would probably ensure he skips the Tour and shares leadership with Adam Yates at the Vuelta. 

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Daniel Benson

 Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.