Hammond hails Ineos Grenadiers at ‘opening weekend’: ‘If they ride like this they’re going to win’
'I feel really pleased with the guys and how quickly that they’ve come together' says sports director.
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Finishing outside the top-15 in both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne was scant reward for Ineos Grenadiers in “opening weekend.”
The British team animated both races with Tom Pidcock, Ben Turner, Magnus Sheffield and Jhonatan Nárvaez among their roster to go on the attack throughout the weekend.
Narváez came closest to a top result when he was caught just a hundred meters from the line in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday, but throughout the weekend the young squad gelled and showed attacking intent.
Roger Hammond, who joined as a sports director over the winter, came away from the “opening weekend” with a great sense of pride in his riders, and claimed that they were the strongest team in Sunday’s race.
“I feel really pleased with the guys and how quickly that they’ve come together, and how quickly that they’ve formed a really good team that’s worked together. As a team, I’ve not seen that many team performances like that in my lifetime. We come out of the weekend with really something to look forward to. The guys should be really proud and very excited about what’s to come in April,” Hammond said.
It was AGONISINGLY close 😱@NarvaezJho gave it everything, but his break is caught within sight of the line after a thrilling finale at #KBK22
Well done on a tremendous performance, Jhonny 👏 pic.twitter.com/tTQ0gqJfsc
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) February 27, 2022
The team came into the weekend with a young roster that included team-leader Pidcock and a number of exciting prospects. Ethan Hayter is still feeling his way back to racing, and Ben Swift crashed on Saturday but Turner was a constant present at key points in both races.
Hammond believes that despite the young age within most of the classics team the rider bonded well and raced intelligently.
“We’re working hard, we’re trying to get things going and there’s a lot going on but that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to calm the chaos. I think that showed with the riders today and how they road. They had a plan, they committed to it, and they executed it. The result is the cherry but if they ride like that then the results will follow. It makes it all worthwhile to see them race like that,” he added.
On Sunday the team created several important splits and Narváez was part of a three-man move that almost claimed the race from eventual winner Fabio Jakobsen.
The Ineos rider was caught just shy of the line and he eventually finished 39th but his performance, and those from his teammates around him, suggested that the team could be genuine contenders for top honors once the cobbled season resumes next month.
“Look at the age of the guys on the team, and this is only their second one-day race together. That’s pretty impressive,” added Hammond.
“We were by far the best-placed team in the race today. The second-best team was nowhere near us today. So if we take that home from today, that’s pretty bloody impressive. I find it really impressive because there’s real headspace. We’ll keep pushing, keep working, and that’s why I’m so excited with what’s to come. These guys are learning, we’ve got the talent, we’ve got the attitude, the desire and the hunger. If they ride like this they’re going to win.”