There was an unmistakable sense of déjà vu at Team Ineos' first rest day press conference, in the Tour de France, as the British team settled back in their chairs to face the assembled media in a crowded and slightly sweaty conference room in their team hotel.
For the seventh time in eight years, the overall classification tide is swimming strongly in favour of Ineos, albeit in the team's previous incarnation as Sky, with Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal are second and third overall, with all of their pre-race GC competitors now trailing them time-wise.
When asked whether Team Ineos, and formerly Sky, were better prepared than other teams to take on the Tour, and if that explained stages like Monday's where a number of rivals were dropped on theoretically inoffensive terrain, Thomas answered that Ineos' single focus, on winning the race rather than dividing their energies, was crucial to their success.
Using Jumbo – now the winners of four stages – as a point of comparison, Thomas argued that, "we just have one goal."
"You look at [George] Bennett, for instance," who was sent back for bidons at a crucial point in the race, whilst lying fourth overall, "They've got stages [where they are working] for sprinters, and a lot of the other teams have riders in breakaways, whereas we have just have one goal. Trying to win the Tour. That makes a big difference."
Broadening his point to look at how Team Ineos were able to exploit their rich mine of past victories in order to handle situations like the echelons of stage 10, Thomas argued that, "yesterday was a great day, it shows anything can happen in this race, it shows you've always got to be attentive and on the ball.
"Nine times out of ten nothing happens, and it's kind of like you think that was a stressful day for nothing, but then something like yesterday can happen, too. We've got a lot of experience in the race, as well, a lot of our riders have ridden this race numerous times and been in the winning teams. So, it all adds up."
Sitting by his side, Bernal indirectly confirmed that 'all for one' goal strategy by saying that the best young rider's classification, which he currently commands, was not something he is thinking about in the long-term right now. "Yellow is better than white," he argued, "and that's the team's overriding objective."
Unsurprisingly, Thomas argued that he had had a great start to the first week, although team boss Dave Brailsford remained careful to point out that they still have two cards in the shape of Thomas and Bernal to play as they move into week two.
But in any case for the Welshman, two minor injury-free crashes, the five-second time loss in Épernay, and the 20-second time loss in Saint-Étienne surely count for next to nothing when weighed up to a single time gain of 100 seconds on their most dangerous GC rival on a theoretically easy stage, a strong team time trial, and an impressive climbing performance on La Planche des Belle Filles. A quick glance at the state of play on the general classification only confirms that.
As for outside the race itself, Thomas was equally adamant that there was no difference between this year and last year for him in terms of how he was experiencing the Tour, despite being the focus of attention and having the number one dossard on his back.
"It's only on days like today when everyone asks me instead of Froome. Other than that it's the same, I don't go on social media or read all the white noise around the race, I stay in my own little bubble, things [haven't] changed too much. Like I say, I just have to answer more questions and I'm enjoying it so far."
Assuming there are no further surprise setbacks like in Saint-Étienne, the big question that is perhaps yet to be resolved for Ineos is over race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and how long he can hold onto yellow.
"Obviously it would be better if it was only a couple of seconds between me and Alaphilippe, not a minute, but other than that it's great." Thomas reflected.
"Coming into the race, we wouldn't have talked of Alaphilippe being a GC contender, but to get time on everybody else is massive, a big bonus. Now the real harder Alpine and Pyrenean stages will start, so I can't complain."
Is he confident of beating Alalphilippe? "We didn't mind him gaining a few seconds here or there because he's never really ridden for GC before," Thomas argued. "But you've got to be more and more aware of him as the race goes on.
"The big days are yet to come, the time trial and the mountains. On the second day, we'll know a lot more. If he's increased his advantage, then we'll be more concerned. It's an unknown for him, too, so it should be an interesting second week," Thomas concluded, but for the bulk of the Tour peloton, perhaps, it was beginning to look ominously familiar.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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