Different Grand Tour, different Slovenian favourite, same strategy. Ineos Grenadiers teammates Adam Yates and Richard Carapaz spent a hefty chunk of their pre-Vuelta a España press conferences highlighting how the team's multiple leaders could help them beat Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) despite what happened barely a month ago with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) at the Tour de France.
In what are distinct echoes of Ineos Grenadiers' four-pronged strategy for the 2021 Tour de France, which ended with results too well known to need repeating here, the team will field three leaders for the Vuelta a España: Egan Bernal, Yates and Carapaz.
Previously when asked if it had been already clearly established who would be the team leader in Ineos Grenadiers for the Vuelta, Bernal had recognised in his own press conference it was a “good question”.
He then outlined the potential of each Ineos favourite including, he hoped, himself. He also said that the tough Vuelta start, which includes a mountaintop finish on Monday, would help establish a natural hierarchy in the team.
Carapaz and Yates, then, more or less adopted the same arguments as Bernal. Carapaz pointed out, too, that in his own eyes he had already fulfilled his mission brief for 2021 with his podium finish in France, an Olympic Games victory and a win in the Tour de Suisse.
“Having opciones [options] is always good for a team,” Carapaz told reporters in his Spanish-speaking section of the press conference. “It was the same in the Tour de France when I was sharing with [Geraint Thomas].”
“We have a lot of leaders but it gives us options,” Yates added. “We’ve seen in the Grand Tours this year that one crash can really derail a team. So having options specially in first week when there’s so much potential for things to go wrong is always better.
“We’ll try to keep ourselves out of trouble and hopefully having options can help us toward the end of the race.”
Carapaz confirmed that it had already been a great season for him, but added, “I always think of winning, regardless of what happens.”
“I’m here with Egan and Adam thinking about the overall and the last week is so tough it will ensure everybody finds their respective place.”
Should past Vuelta race history alone decide who is the team's leader, then there can be no competition. Richard Carapaz was second in last year’s Vuelta, a race in which Bernal has never taken part, and where Yates played a key role in supporting his brother’s successful victory bid in 2018 but has never shone on his own account.
Even so, when it comes to Carapaz's own particular route map to Vuelta victory, there could well be a Slovenian-shaped obstacle in his pathway to the Santiago de Compostela finish identical to the one that stopped the Ecuadorian in his tracks en route to the Madrid winners’ podium in 2020.
“The race is three days longer and there are more mountains,” Carapaz argued, somewhat vaguely, when asked how he would overcome Roglič, whom, if unsuccessful in Spain, he had beaten in the 2019 Giro d'Italia.
Reverting to a classic argument to resolve any potential Ineos Grenadiers leadership question, he added, “We’ll all have options, but the road,” rider shorthand for the way the race plays out, "will decide. And that will prevail over whatever we want personally. The road will decide. It always does.
“My main objectives of the year have been achieved, and here in the Vuelta I’m looking to do as well as possible. We’re all keen to win, but it’s difficult because only one person does. But that won’t stop us trying."
Yates argued later: “With all these options, we can try different tactics. I don’t think many people will have the options we’ll have in the third week. We’ll try not to lose silly time and take it from there.”
Given the power of Ineos Grenadiers' lineup, one journalist asked what were the chances of having yet more teammates up on GC like Pavel Sivakov, a notably strong performer in the Vuelta a Burgos, or Tom Pidcock?
Yates laughed briefly at the idea, saying, “It’s probably quite difficult to have five or six guys up there on GC. But we’re not going to throw guys out of GC for no reason.”
In any case, as all the Ineos Grenadiers riders noted, the road will have the last word on that one. How quickly that verdict will appear, though, is anybody’s guess.
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