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Hinault: Ineos created their Tour de France leadership problem around Chris Froome

Tour de France 2020, Chris Froome and Egan Bernal
Chris Froome and Egan Bernal at the 2020 Tour de France presentation (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault has said that Team Ineos have no one to blame but themselves for their leadership quandary. In Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, the squad have three Tour winners on their roster and tough choices to make come the 2020 Tour, which begins on August 29.

Hinault is, of course, no stranger to intra-team rivalries, having memorably battled Greg LeMond while the pair were teammates at La Vie Claire in 1985 and 1986. 

The Breton, who stands as the last French Tour winner, said that Ineos management will have to make the tough choice of who will lead the team in France.

"It's the problem they created at Ineos," Hinault told Dutch newspaper AD. "They recruited the best riders – Bernal, Thomas and Froome – to win the Tour every year. And they all want to win.

"It's up to the team management to decide. They haven't done that in the past. Only in the mountains will it be decided who goes for the overall victory. The decision about the leadership has to be made there."

Bernal, who won the race last year, has said that the road will decide, and that the tough opening stages – the first summit finish comes on stage 4 – will see the strongest emerge right from the start of the race.

In late May, L'Equipe reported that team boss Dave Brailsford has separately promised Tour leadership to each man, though the team later clarified to Cyclingnews that a decision would be taken closer to the race.

Hinault said that Froome should leave the team if he doesn't get the support of his teammates at the Tour. The Brit was last month in discussions with other teams about a possible mid-season transfer, though there have been no new revelations on that front since.

"Bernal has the advantage. He is very young and very talented," said Hinault. "He's is the rider of the future.

"Froome will have to wait for the Tour and then decide what he does: stay or leave. If he doesn't win the Tour this year because he didn't get support from his teammates, he'd better go to another team where he's sure he's the only leader for the Tour.

"I think that Froome still has it in him. Two years ago, he wasn't good enough and Geraint Thomas won, and he wasn't there last year. I believe he can do it in 2020."

The Tour de France is set to run from August 29 to September 20, though what kind of race it will be depends upon how the COVID-19 outbreak is successfully contained over the coming months. Hinault said that preventing deaths is more important than riding bike races, adding that he doesn't know if it will be possible to run the race.

"We hope the coronavirus pandemic will indeed be eradicated by then. Ensuring that there are no deaths is now much more important than riding a race," he said.

"I know ASO is doing everything they can to make the Tour happen. I don't know if that's going to work. I know that the future of many teams may depend on the Tour. I hope everyone behaves seriously.

"There has been a lot of political support for the Tour in recent months. Among others, the French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu did everything she could to make the Tour take place. That's normal. The Tour is a world event. If it is ridden, it will be the biggest sporting event on a global scale that can take place this year."