Will Team Ineos win their eighth Tour de France in nine editions? At the time of starting this Saturday a race under sanitary tension, on the promenade des Anglais in Nice, the British formation is betting everything on Egan Bernal. The 23-year-old Colombian is certainly a safe bet, winner of the Tour last year and dominator of the Route d’Occitanie when the season resumes in early August. But the climber has also officially spent the last few weeks loose back. In addition, the team, which rolls under the colors of the 4 × 4 Grenadier, marketed by the chemical firm Ineos, came without a plan B. That is to say without its other potential leaders, Christopher Froome (four success) and Geraint Thomas (the winner of the 2018 Tour), short of form.
For the first time since 2012, Team Ineos is set to cross swords with a team of its own, the Jumbo-Visma, a new terror which has recently taken hold of everything it can. Jumbo also makes Ineos, and better: several associated leaders, power of the collective, supremacy in the mountains and against the clock, “marginal gains” in preparation, which include the controversial use of ketone drinks , supposed to promote recovery. One of the favorites of this edition placed under the sign of Covid-19 is therefore the Slovenian Primoz Roglic, 30, leader of Jumbo-Visma, who already won the Tour of Spain last year. The former ski jumper lets the whole peloton ogle his butt when it comes to crossing a finish line. Untouchable this summer on the Tour de l’Ain and then the Dauphiné, before a fall in the same race, he could suffer from possible consequences. In case of failure, his team can deploy the Dutchman Tom Dumoulin.
Mints in water
The French, in an unprecedented context, will perhaps succeed in rejecting the bad fate which besieges them these last thirty-five years and the Bernard Hinault era. On the podium in 2014, brilliant in the high mountains last year until a knee injury which forced him to retire, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) has the right profile for a rock climber. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) remains a top-notch outsider after a 2019 edition where he spent two-thirds of the race in yellow, even if he says he is aiming for stage victories.
To tell the truth, the forced stopping of the races from March to July shakes up all standards. Where are the certainties? The Critérium du Dauphiné whispers a name that is almost sure to the ear of cowards of betting: in mid-August it devoted a quidam to this level (the Colombian Daniel Martinez, of the American team EF Pro Cycling). The stake: a barista from the peloton, who serves water mints all year round, could well whistle them here instead of the usual thirsty people. Tom Dumoulin does not say anything else: “It’s not Jumbo-Visma against Ineos. At least 20 riders can claim the win or appear on the podium. We just have to make sure we’re better. ” But to win at the pedal, the Tour de France must still be able to parade on September 20 on the Champs-Elysées.
Romain Boulho special correspondent in Nice