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Tom Pidcock leads Ineos Grenadiers’ Generation Z talent pool

ESPINOSA DE LOS MONTEROS SPAIN AUGUST 16 LR Salvatore Puccio of Italy Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Thomas Pidcock of United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers compete during the 76th Tour of Spain 2021 Stage 3 a 2028km stage from Santo Domingo de Silos to Espinosa de los Monteros Picn Blanco 1485m lavuelta LaVuelta21 CapitalMundialdelCiclismo on August 16 2021 in Espinosa de los Monteros Spain Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo MorenoGetty Images
Tom Pidcock (far right) at Vuelta a España with Ineos Grenadiers (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ineos Grenadiers have kept several key veteran riders for 2022 but have signed a number of talented young Gen Z riders as they work to develop their next generation of classics and Grand Tour contenders.

The British super-team’s average age remains around 27 but the younger riders are clearly in ascendance. Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte, Luke Rowe and Ben Swift are now the veterans of the British team, with Egan Bernal, Filippo Ganna, Richard Carapaz, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Michał Kwiatkowski the current leaders for the major races.

Just behind them and forcefully knocking on the door of team leadership is the next generation, led by 22-year-old Tom Pidcock and fellow Briton Ethan Hayter, who both joined Ineos for the 2021 season.

Ineos Grenadiers let Rohan Dennis, Gianni Moscon go and signed Elia Vivani and Omar Fraile but most of their investments went on five of the most talented riders available. They signed Britain’s 20-year-old Ben Tulett from Alpecin-Fenix, 21-year-old Kim Heiduk of Germany, 21-year-old Luke Plapp of Australia, Britain’s 22-year-old Ben Turner and 19-year-old Magnus Sheffield of the USA. 

Spain's Carlos Rodriguez turns 21 on February 2 but has been part of Ineos Grenadiers since 2020 and is as equally talented. He is expected to duel with Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) in the years ahead and emerge as a Grand Tour talent.      

While Thomas is 35, Porte 36 and Kwiatkowski is a veteran at 31, Ineos Grenadiers now have seven riders aged 23 or under. Bernal and Ganna are also still only 25, with Pavel Sivakov 24. If there is a trend to sign new riders in search of the next great star of the sport, the next Remco Evenpeol (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) or Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Ineos grenadiers seem perfectly placed after a major renewal of their roster.    

“We followed a strategy focused on the future because we always want to improve and look ahead,” Directeur Sportif Matteo Tosatto recently told Tuttobici about the arrival of the next generation.  

“We knew we needed to refresh the roster and the signings followed that idea. They’re new signings and for beyond 2022; we won’t put the young guys under pressure to get results, also because we’ve also got riders of the calibre of Bernal, Pidcock, Geoghegan Hart and Hayter. They’re still young too and are only getting better year after year.”

Ineos Grenadiers began to transform their roster with the arrival of Bernal in 2018 and the process accelerated for 2021 when Chris Froome was let go and joined Israel Start-Up Nation. Dave Brailsford was initially caught out without a development plan after Froome’s run of Grand Tour success. He went more international when Ineos replaced Sky as team owner and sponsor but after some language and cultural differences, their next generation has more of an English-speaking culture and has delved deep into the second generation of British talent that was inspired by Bradley Wiggins, Froome and Thomas.

Rod Ellingworth returned to a senior management role at Ineos Grenadiers in 2021 after his 18-month spell at Bahrain. The next generation of riders appears very similar to the group that he managed and developed at the Under 23 Great Britain Academy in Italy that included Thomas, Ben Swift, Peter Kennaugh, Rowe, Alex Dowsett and others. All the new young riders are talented and will be carefully mentored, while competing against each other but also working together for the good of the team.

With Brailsford also taking on a wider role as director of sport, the team owner is also changing the Ineos coaching and performance staff. Ellingworth has been named as deputy team principal, with Roger Hammond joining him as lead directeur sportif.  

Long-time head coach Tim Kerrison has moved on and Paul Barrett has been brought in from British Cycling as Head of Performance Support and Innovation. Former British rider Steve Cummings is a new directeur sportif, alongside the likes of  Tosatto, Servais Knaven, Dario Cioni, Brett Lancaster and Christian Knees. Dan Bingham has also joined the team as performance engineer, with Ineos Grenadiers listing 21 directeur sportif and performance staff on their website. Ben Swift will mentor the riders from the saddle in 2022 and could then move to the team car after that.

Pidcock leads the next generation

Amstel Gold Race 2021 - 55th Edition - Valkenburg - Berg en Terblijt 218,6 km - 18/04/2021 - Tom Pidcock (GBR - Ineos Grenadiers) - photo Nico Vereecken/PN/BettiniPhoto©2021

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Pidcock leads the Ineos Grenadiers Gen Z group and is mature beyond his years. He will only turn 23 in July but his career has always followed a fast track and that continued in his first full season at WorldTour level in 2021.

He was immediately third in the sprint that decided Kuurne-Brusell-Kuurne, was fifth at Strade Bianche, impressed at Milan-San Remo and then won De Brabantse Pijl by beating Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in a two-rider sprint. The Belgian got revenge at the Amstel Gold Race a few days later but Pidcock won a gold medal in the mountain bike race at the Tokyo Olympic Games after a fractured collarbone and even finished the Vuelta a España after several weeks of Olympic celebrations.

Pidcock had shown his talents as a junior and under 23 rider. He won the junior cyclo-cross world title in 2017, the under-23 title in 2019 and is now favourite for the elite title in the USA later this month. He won the junior edition of Paris-Roubaix in 2017 and the junior world time trial title. Far more than just a cyclo-cross and Classics rider even then, Pidcock dominated the 2020 Giro Baby in Italy, winning three mountain stages and the overall.

The Yorkshireman will have a central role in the Ineos Grenadiers Classics squad this year, taking on Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), but has potential that even they do not have. Pidcock could develop into Ineos Grenadiers next British Grand Tour contender and eventually replace Carapaz or even Bernal.    

Hayter starts his third season in Ineos colours despite only just turning 23. He focused on the track in 2019 and the middle of 2021, but still managed to win roughly a quarter of Ineos Grenadiers' victories, using his fast finish to take nine wins.

None of the wins came at WorldTour level but he impressed at the Tour of Norway and the Tour of Britain. He also won the British national time trial in September, to underline his range of talents. He can definitely be Britain’s next great sprinter and emulate Mark Cavendish as a youthful winner of MIlan-San Remo.

Plapp, 21, showed his ability and the Ineos effect last week by winning the elite Australian national title with a bold solo pursuit and attack. It was a move that not only showed his strength, but also his progression as he patiently waited conserving in the group till the final laps after having learnt the hard way in 2021 not to launch too early. He won the time trial title last year, and is the anchor of the Australian team pursuit team on the track.

Sheffield broke his deal with Rally Cycling to join Ineos Grenadiers and like Plapp, is a time trialling talent. A junior pursuit record holder and a bronze medal in the junior Worlds road race in Yorkshire in 2019 indicates he could develop into the next great American rider.

Tulett is equally talented and prodigious, showing his potential in cyclo-cross rather than on the boards. He is a double junior world cyclo-cross champion in the mud and turned professional with Alpecin-Fenix in 2020 when still a teenager. He became the youngest rider to finish Liège-Bastogne-Liège and in 2021 was an impressive 12th at Fleche Wallonne. He then finished ninth overall at the Tour de Pologne, all before his 20th birthday. Ineos wanted him badly and so he forced his move out of his Alpecin-Fenix contract to join the Ineos Gen Z boy band.    

Turner and Heiduk also show huge potential. The German is the under-23 national road race champion and knows how to win, while Turner is yet another cyclo-cross rider ready to take flight in professional road racing. He took three top tens and spent a day in the maglia rosa at the baby Giro. He crashed hard at the Tour de l’Avenir but came back to finish second in the under-23 British time trial championships.

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Stephen Farrand

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.