Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal have been confirmed as Team Ineos' co-leaders of the 2020 Tour de France. Team Ineos boss Dave Brailsford outlined a preliminary race programme that highlighted the team's Grand Tours leaders in a video posted on the team's social media account on Thursday.
"You pencil in your plans at this time of year, but you always know that things can change in the sport," Brailsford said. "As it stands at this moment in time, we are looking at Richard [Carapaz] going to race the Giro and try and retain his title there, and then for Geraint [Thomas] and Egan [Bernal] to take on the challenge of, and focus on, the Tour."
Bernal won the 2019 Tour de France with Thomas placing second overall. Thomas, who won the 2018 edition of the Tour, had previously stated his ambition to target the race again this July, preferably over the Giro d'Italia.
Thomas' 2020 race plans have started to take shape as he is set to race Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse before the Tour de France in July.
Chris Froome, who has won the Tour on four previous occasions (2013 and 2015-2017), did not compete in the race last year after a horrific crash in training at the Critérium du Dauphiné ended his season early. The accident left him with fractures to his femur, hip, elbow, vertebrae and sternum.
After a lengthy recovery process, Froome is back to training full-time at a camp in Gran Canaria. He has indicated that he would like to be at his best during the Tour de France, to try for a fifth title.
"And of course, Chris [Froome] coming back, he’s still really craving that big fifth win and he’s working very, very hard to get back to the level required to be competitive," Brailsford said.
"That’s what we are working on and that’s where we are at now. It’s a good position to be in."
Brailsford revealed that time trial world champion Rohan Dennis will compete in the Giro d'Italia with Carapaz, while also focussing on his preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
"We have other riders like Rohan Dennis joining the team, who will also ride the Giro this year, but he has goals for the Olympics as well and that fits in nicely," Brailsford said.
Team Ineos have a range of young talent that includes Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jhonathan Narvaez, Pavel Sivakov and Ivan Sosa, who could also be positioned among the Grand Tour rosters this season.
"And we have some of the younger riders who are developing, and we are going to try and merge some of them into the Tour team and some of the others into the Giro to get experience," Brailsford said.
Brailsford said that he believes the Grand Tours, in general, have changed in terms of the amount of time trialling and climbing over the years. He said he felt that, more recently, rival teams and GC riders have improved and challenged Team Ineos, and he expects that there will be a challenge in the Grand Tours again in 2020.
"We can identify areas where we can improve and get better and figure out the puzzle of how we are going to win this year," he said. "Given the Tour and how exciting that was. I think that this year, the Grand Tours are set to be great fun, a great spectacle, and tough to win, as always."
Team Ineos united at a team training camp in Mallorca in December and the season is about to kick off at the Santos Tour Down Under in January, where Dennis and Sivakov will be on the start line. Bernal and Carapaz will lead an all-Latin American roster for Team Ineos at Tour Colombia 2.1 in February.
"I think it's a season full of opportunities and excitement, and everybody is raring to go," Brailsford said. "There’s a real energy about the group and they want to get at it, they really do. They want to get racing.
"We want to go and race with flare and panache and try and win, and opt for the courageous option and not the comfort option, and all those different things. Try and make great things happen for them [fans], for us, and for the whole sport."