The loss of Luke Rowe and Tony Martin for the final mountain stages of the Tour de France will spark a "dramatic" change in workload for Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma, according to CCC Team manager Jim Ochowicz. Rowe and Martin were expelled from the Tour de France after stage 17 after a series of tense interactions before the final climb as they fought for position at the head of the peloton.
Rowe was the Team Ineos road captain and key worker on the early flat roads of the mountain stages, doing the heavy lifting so that his teammates could save themselves and be with Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal in the final of the decisive stages. Martin's huge ability as a rouleur helped Steven Kruijswijk in a similar way at Jumbo-Visma. Other riders will have to make up for their absence during the long valley roads on stager 19 and 20.
"In final days of the race those two bulldozers would do 40 per cent of the teamwork before the mountains. For both teams trying to win the Tour de France it's a big blow," Ochowicz suggested to Cyclingnews, who speaks with experience after managing teams for 30 years and winning the Tour de France in 2011 with Cadel Evans.
Team Ineos are down to seven riders after the loss of Rowe, while Jumbo-Visma have just six rider after Wout Van Aert crashed out during the Pau time trial on stage 13.
In the absence of Rowe, Gianni Moscon, Dylan van Baarle and Michał Kwiatkowski will have to do the early work, join the breakaways or leading the chase, while Amund Grøndahl Jansen will try to help Kruijswijk as mountain domestiques George Bennett and Laurens De Plus save energy. Sprinters Dylan Groenewegen and Mike Teunissen will no doubt be focused on making it through the Alps so they can contest the expected sprint finish on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Sunday evening.
"We're riding with eight riders now, not nine, so each rider's function is irreplaceable," Ochowicz argued.
"Every time you lose one rider, your race strategy and rider work load changes dramatically. When you're racing for the win, as we've been in the past, it's dramatic.
"How many people can do what Tony Martin does for Jumbo-Visma and the same with Luke Rowe at Ineos? The teams will have accelerate the work with other riders efforts instead of saving it for later. Of course, these guys are pros, they do it for a living, so they adjust, but it's harder work for everyone in the teams."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.