Team Ineos road captain Luke Rowe has described the exclusion of Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome from the Tour de France squad as a "tough decision" and has called for the team to now "put all of our eggs in one basket and look after Egan."
Rowe is the only British rider in the eight-rider line-up for the Tour, with the previous successes of Froome and Thomas counting for little as Team Ineos prepare to target victory in this year's mountainous race against their on-form rivals Jumbo-Visma. While Bernal and much of the Tour de France squad has raced in France in August, Rowe rode the Tour de Pologne and then the Tour de Wallonie in Belgium.
On Wednesday, Team Ineos manager Dave Brailsford confirmed Bernal as team leader and swapped Richard Carapaz for Thomas. He named Thomas as leader for the Giro d'Italia and directed Froome towards the Vuelta a España. Pavel Sivakov, Andrey Amador, Jonathan Castroviejo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Dylan van Baarle and Rowe will have the vital role of protecting and helping Bernal.
"It is obviously a difficult decision, we are talking about a guy here who won the race four times and another former winner who finished second last year. It's tough to leave them at home but we've got to put all of our eggs in one basket and look after of Egan," Rowe told Belgian television station RTBF before the final stage of the Tour de Wallonie.
Rowe accepted that Froome and Thomas weren't at their best at the Dauphiné, which finished less two week before the Tour de France Grand Départ on August 29.
"If you look at the recent races, I wouldn't say they're not in good shape, but perhaps they're not quite where they need to be. If they want to win the Tour de France, they have to be in the thick end of the Dauphiné," Rowe conceded.
"It’s a tough decision. That why the bosses are paid the big money and we do what they say."
While both Thomas and Froome wanted to ride the Tour de France, they have been given a leadership role for the other Grand Tours of the rescheduled season. Thomas now has time to find his best form for the Giro d'Italia which begins in Palermo on October 3, while Froome has a further 60 days to complete his return after his terrible crash at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné.
Rowe highlighted the positives of Team Ineos spreading its Grand Tour winners across this year's races.
"Something we haven't done for a lot of years is to spread our troops across three Grand Tours, so it gives us lots of opportunity to have success in other big races too," he argued.
"Hopefully we can achieve success across three Grand Tours as opposed to what has been the case in recent years: just one."
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