By Beth Riley
The 2020 Tour de France is almost upon us and following the consistent success of British cyclists over the last decade, the expectations for continued glory remain just as high as ever.
Given the Criterium du Dauphine is often regarded as an indication of current form, must do better is the clear message from Ineos team director, Gabriel Rash, who wasn’t impressed with the performances of Geraint Thomas or Chris Froome.
Neither of the pair managed to finish in the top ten during any of the five stages at the Criterium, well off the pace that was achieved by other leading riders. Indeed, neither were able to finish within the top ten during any of the five stages in France. Although their teammate Egan Bernal finished third at Stage 1 and tenth at Stage 3, the Colombian was outside the top ten at Stage 3 and withdrew from Stage 4 with back problems.
In comments highlighted by cyclingnews.com after Stage 5, Rasch insisted “they have not been good enough here” when discussing his frustrations, with Thomas and Froome both more than 30 minutes behind Sepp Kuss. The American rider finished Stage 5 with a time of 3h 58’ 39” over the mountainous 153.5km Megeve circuit, claiming yet another excellent result for Team Jumbo-Visma, demonstrating the depth and quality within their ranks this year.
Despite these discouraging comments from the Team Ineos supremo, Thomas and Froome still remain amongst the top ten best-priced competitors, according to the latest 2020 Tour de France odds. The outright favourite for the most popular Grand Tour event of the year is Primoz Roglic of Team Jumbo-Visma, who continues his impressive rise to prominence.
Meanwhile, the best hopes for Team Ineos would appear to rest firmly with Egan Bernal. The 23-year-old was impressive during the early stages of the Criterium, and he is expected to battle hard for a repeat of his magnificent 2019 Tour de France victory. His withdrawal with back trouble ahead of Stage 4 at the Criterium will be alarming, although Ineos claim this was merely a precaution, confident he will recover in time for the Tour.
Formerly known as Team Sky and having dominated the Tour de France for so long, with seven team wins in eight years, Team Ineos know they will face a tougher challenge than ever before from Team Jumbo-Visma this year. Their lead rider is Primoz Roglic, who continues his meteoric rise to prominence, and the Slovenian is tipped as the outright favourite to triumph at the Tour this year.
If they are to stand any chance of stopping that from happening, Thomas and Froome will need to make a swift return to their best form, although if performances at the Criterium are any indication, that could be a tall order. Since recovering from an awful crash that left him with multiple serious injuries at the Criterium last year, Froome has had little time to rediscover his racing rhythm.
Only time will tell if Froome and Thomas can dig deep enough to challenge at the Tour this year, although the best option for Team Ineos would appear to be Bernal once more, which could lead to the British duo working more towards support his efforts over the 21 stages in France.
What do you think?