Vuelta a España: Analyzing the Ineos Grenadiers team

A mix of youth and experience for the British WorldTour team ahead of the final grand tour of the season.

Photo: Getty Images

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The Vuelta a España starts Friday, and Ineos Grenadiers has selected a team stacked with both experience and youth.

Four riders make their grand tour debuts in Spain but the team is still built towards a tilt at the GC with former runner-up Richard Carapaz set to lead the line.

Joining the Olympic road champion are the likes of Tao Geohegan Hart and Pavel Sivakov, while there are exciting three-week debuts for four riders, including Carlos Rodriguez and Luke Plapp.

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VeloNews takes an indepth look at the eight-rider team ahead of Friday’s official race start.

Richard Carapaz

Role: Team leader
Age: 29
Vuelta pedigree: Second to Primož Roglič in 2020.

You almost have to admire Ineos’ audacity at times and their decision to confirm that Carapaz was leaving the team before EF Education-EasyPost had managed to announce the transfer effectively ended any lingering speculation over the Olympic champion’s future and took some of the gloss off EF’s news.

This last foray as a grand tour leader on the British team could go one of two ways. Either the rider and those around him will seize the opportunity to gain another podium place, or cracks will develop in the first week before the team shifts focus to another candidate or go full-hog on stage wins.

We’ve seen such scenarios play out time and time before but if Carapaz starts well then another podium will be within his reach.

There’s a sense that if Carapaz falters during the Vuelta then his three years at Ineos will have been deemed a failure. That would be a hugely shortsighted view. He hasn’t added to his grand tour palmares but he’s been the team’s most consistent three-week rider over the last few seasons.

Tao Geoghegan Hart

(Photo: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Role: Super domestique
Age: 27
Vuelta pedigree: Almost won a stage in 2019, and this is his third attempt.

The British rider was initially down for the Giro d’Italia but missed out. Then there was the Tour de France long-list, but once more Geoghegan Hart was cut, and now he arrives at the Vuelta with his career at a somewhat of a crossroads.

It’s now two years since his Giro win and the reality is that results have regressed to where they were during his neo-pro years.

Is he still a grand tour rider? That’s a legitimate question, especially when you compare his trajectory with Jai Hindley’s over at Bora-Hansgrohe.

Circumstances are obviously different, and the Ineos rider hasn’t had the same number of opportunities as his Australian counterpart but the Vuelta could be the point at which Geoghegan Hart’s 2023 future is defined in terms of his role at Ineos.

Ethan Hayter

Role: Stage hunter
Age: 23
Vuelta pedigree: Grand tour debut.

Hayter arrives at the Vuelta as one of the most exciting riders on the start list. He has enjoyed an incredible last two years at Ineos, racking up numerous wins, and solidifying his position on the team as a genuine threat for stage wins, and potentially an early phase in the leader’s jersey.

He’s also a rider who appears to be maturing with each passing race, and his naturally aggressive style and fast finish perfectly suit the way in which the Vuelta is races. Even with Carapaz designated as the team leader, the 23-year-old should have plenty of chances to shine.

Pavel Sivakov

NEILA, SPAIN - AUGUST 06: Pavel Sivakov of Russia and Team INEOS Grenadiers celebrates winning the Purple Leader Jersey on the podium ceremony after the 44th Vuelta a Burgos 2022, Stage 5 a 170km stage from Lerma to Lagunas de Neila 1867m / #VueltaBurgos / on August 06, 2022 in Neila, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Pavel Sivakov celebrates winning the Vuelta a Burgos 2022 (Photo: Getty Images).

Role: Super domestique
Age: 25
Vuelta pedigree: Came close to a stage last year.

It feels as though the French rider has been around for years but inexplicably he’s still a contender for the white jersey, despite the fact that he’s heading into his seventh grand tour.

Truth be told, he wasn’t going to make the Vuelta squad until his form showed a dramatic turn around in the last few weeks. His second place in San Sebastián, followed by his overall win at the Vuelta a Burgos represented his first GC triumph in three years and demonstrated the old adage that form is temporary, class is permanent.

In a recent interview with VeloNews the French rider talked about his hopes for a GC bid at the Vuelta but for that to happen Carapaz must either falter in the first week or Sivakov needs to a way to work for the Ecuadorian while also keep enough in the tank for the high mountains.

It could prove to be a difficult balancing act but the recent form is certainly encouraging. In terms of an internal pecking order, it almost feels like Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart are vying for a similar spot in next year’s grand tour scheduling.

Carlos Rodríguez

Role: Super domestique
Age: 21
Vuelta pedigree: Grand tour debut.

One of the best U23 riders in the world and on the cusp of a major WorldTour breakthrough, Rodríguez could be Ineos’ sleeper when it comes to the GC battle at the Vuelta.

The youngster clearly has an incredible pedigree for stage racing, while his recent form at the Vuelta a Burgos almost netted him a podium, despite the Spaniard burying himself for Sivakov.

It’s obviously his grand tour debut, and expectations need to be managed but Rodríguez is one of the most exciting stage racers to come out of Spain in the last decade. What’s worth noting is how patient the team has been with his development and how the rider hasn’t been rushed into making progress. The kid has everything in his locker, so it’s only a matter of time before he shows it on a grand tour stage. Keeping a lid on expectations is going to be tough, clearly.

Dylan van Baarle

Role: Domestique
Age: 30
Vuelta pedigree: This will be the Dutchman’s fourth attempt.

He might be leaving for pastures new at the end of the season but Ineos Grenadiers feel as though they can still trust their dependable Paris-Roubaix winner with keeping Carapaz out of trouble on the flat roads.

Van Baarle will be sorely missed next year at Ineos in the wake of his move to Jumbo-Visma but as well as shielding Carapaz over the coming weeks he will also look to pass on his valuable experience to the next two riders on this list.

Luke Plapp

Role: Domestique
Age: 21
Vuelta pedigree: Grand tour debutant.

Plapp might be a surprise inclusion for some but the management have been thoroughly impressed with the young Australian since he joined the team last summer. He has shone in a number of races this year, not least the UAE Tour and the Tour de Romandie, but there’s a huge engine under that hood and Ineos has recognised that massive potential by handing the 21-year-old a grand tour debut.

The Australian will use the Vuelta to gain valuable experience and learn from the likes of van Baarle but don’t be surprised to see the national time trial champion launching late attacks, racing into the mix in the trial and helping to set up Hayter in the sprints.

Ben Turner

Role: Domestique
Age: 23
Vuelta pedigree: Grand tour debutant.

Turner was something of a revelation during the spring classics and Ineos Grenadiers very much see him as a core element in the team’s development. A run-out at the Vuelta will provide the British rider with not just valuable experience but the perfect launchpad for the winter and into the new year. If you’re thinking about the long-term then Turner’s selection makes perfect sense.

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