If Ineos Grenadiers is going to march back into the grand tour frame in 2023, it needs to strap on its boots at the Tour of the Alps.
The former GC powerhouse is loading Geraint Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Pavel Sivakov, and Thymen Arensman into next week’s five-day race in what will be an antipasto for the foursome’s push at the pink jersey of the Giro d’Italia.
“We will arrive with a very competitive lineup, which will also serve as a preview of who will represent the team in the Giro d’Italia,” Ineos Grenadiers director Matteo Tosatto said of the Alpine tour.
“Everyone is coming back from a period of training at altitude; we’ll start with the ambition to win.”
Last year was the first season Ineos Grenadiers didn’t win a grand tour since 2014.
If the Brit crew is going to return to grand tour glory in 2023, the corsa rosa next month might be its best chance.
Thomas and Geoghegan Hart will be outside pink jersey contenders in what’s shaping up to be a heavyweight bout between Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič. But the Giro-bound twosome still pack better odds at a podium than Daniel Martínez and Egan Bernal do in their run-in with Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar at the Tour de France.
And the Vuelta a España? At this stage in the season, it’s impossible to say who might arrive at the late-summer tour.
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) April 15, 2023
Ineos Grendiers busts into the Alpine tour Monday off the back of a bumpy spring.
Tom Pidcock and Filippo Ganna gave the team only a toehold in a classics season dominated by the so-called “big three,” while its stage-race cohort yo-yo’d on and off the wheels of Jumbo-Visma, UAE Emirates, and Soudal Quick-Step.
And now, still stuck at only nine victories for the season, the newly youth-focused Ineos Grenadiers is only 50 percent as prolific as it was at this point last season and has a general classification reputation to make good.
“The Tour of the Alps occupies a perfect spot on the calendar to see where the guys are at with their form,” Tosatto said.
“In recent years we have seen how those who win stages or the general classification at the Tour of the Alps are usually the ones-to-watch at the Giro d’Italia as well. It’s a demanding course that tests you and it’s a perfect lead-up to a grand tour.”
Geraint Thomas and his Giro d’Italia runway
Thomas rolled back the years for Ineos Grenadiers with his resilient ride to the Tour de France podium last year.
Third place behind Pogačar and Vingegaard was the team’s best grand tour result of recent years when counting out podium finishes from the now-departed Richard Carapaz.
And although Geoghegan Hart started this season on a tear, it’s Thomas that’s best placed to flex back against Roglič and Evenepoel on the time trial-heavy menu that will be served at potentially the last grand tour of his career.
With Carapaz gone and Bernal’s comeback looking unsteady, the 36-year-old is the team’s most experienced and celebrated grand tour contender.
After a spring season littered with misfortune, the mountainous Tour of the Alps next week will give the Welshman a runway back to shape ahead of the Grande Partenza.
“Thomas had physical problems at the beginning of the season but showed good form at the Volta a Catalunya; we will decide stage-by-stage with him,” Tossato said.
“Geoghegan Hart and Arensman will take aim at climbing the ranks in the overall classification, same for Sivakov. It’s a race we can win and, with the men at the ready, we can also strategize different plans of action.”
The Giro won’t over before it began if Ineos Grenadiers’ awesome foursome doesn’t deliver at Tour of the Alps.
But Evenepoel and Roglič might take note if Dave Brailsford’s crew steamrolls the likes of Rigoberto Urán, Aleksandr Vlasov and Jack Haig in the Alpine peaks.