According to Chris Froome, the spot once occupied by Egan Bernal at this year’s Giro d’Italia has already been filled by the team, but at the Team Ineos bus at the Tour de Yorkshire, the squad’s management were not giving anything away.
On Saturday afternoon, Cyclingnews broke the news that Bernal had crashed in training in his native Colombia, breaking his collarbone. The Paris-Nice winner was set to lead Team Ineos at a Grand Tour for the first time, but his absence – just a week out from the race – has put the team’s Giro d’Italia plans under serious consideration.
Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas have been plotting their trajectory towards the Tour de France for several months, and Froome ruled himself out of consideration for the Giro spot when questioned in Yorkshire on Sunday morning.
Thomas is currently riding the Tour de Romandie, and although his form is improving by the week he has battled throughout the winter to ensure himself of a leadership spot at the Tour this July. Bernal’s unfortunate accident is unlikely to spark a change in mentality. At the same time, the squad are unlikely to want to try and dilute their Tour de France armoury in order to concentrate on a race the have won just once.
“They’re still discussing and they have to find the right option,” Servais Knaven told Cyclingnews on Sunday morning.
“I don’t think that we’ll go with another GC option because it’s so late. I don’t see anyone getting ready for GC. We can’t change the programmes for Geraint or Froome. Geraint is going really good in Romandie but not at the level to win a Grand Tour, while Froome is still building up. I don’t think that’s going to happen. To find the same level of rider isn’t going to happen.”
Wout Poels, Diego Rosa and David de la Cruz could all be under consideration. The trio raced the Ardennes Classics and have Grand Tour experience. Whether they can slot into a leadership role is questionable at this stage, and Knaven believes that the team will need to change their strategy rather than find a replacement for Bernal and his GC hopes.
Eddie Dunbar confirmed to Cyclingnews on Sunday morning that he was in the frame to take a spot, while the squad also have to replace Gianni Moscon, who has been removed from the provisional line up for reasons not yet explained. The Italian is likely to be racing the Tour of California instead of his home Grand Tour.
“The tactics will be different," added Knaven. "We’ve not really talked about it but we’ve already had some conference calls yesterday and today."
One scenario could involve Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart given greater responsibility. The pair only made their Grand Tour debuts last year at the Vuelta but they impressed last month at the Tour of the Alps with three stage wins and a one-two on the final GC. The five-day event, however, is not comparable to a Grand Tour, and the British team are likely to shield the young riders from too much expectancy and pressure.
“The approach will have to be different but it’s also a nice opportunity for others like Sivakov and Tao, and to see how they can go. It’s nice to have this group together that are young and it’s exciting to see them. With Egan it would have been better but over the next five years if this group can stay together then maybe they can win the Tour.
“I don’t know what they’re going to decide but it’s probably going to be a decent climber. There are a few riders for the flat but if you lose a climber it’s normally a climber who comes in."
Team Ineos are expected to announce their full Giro d’Italia line-up in the next 48 hours. As for who will join Sivakov, Geoghegan Hart, Jhonatan Narvaez, Sebastian Henao, Salvatore Puccio, and Christian Knees, that is still unclear. Someone within the Team Ineos management probably knows, and if in doubt, just ask Froome.
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