There’s been a notable theme throughout the last eight years of the Tour de France, and that is the dominance of Team Sky/Ineos. The group, led by Sir Dave Brailsford, who won so much acclamation for his work with British Cycling, have produced the winners of seven out of the last eight Tours de France. The likes of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal have proved their talents and the impact of the team around them in winning titles for Team Sky/Ineos, to the point where it’s hard to look past Brailsford’s team when discussing the Tour de France betting odds each year.
But with the 2020 Tour de France now into its second week, there is a bit of a different pattern this year compared to others. It is Team Jumbo-Visma who are currently dictating things, with the Ineos Grenadiers struggling to assert themselves fully, by their own high standards. At the time of writing, Jumbo-Visma rider Primož Roglič holds the yellow jersey and is the bookies’ favourite to win the Tour for the first time in his career. Last year’s winner Egan Bernal is in second place, just 21 seconds behind at the time of writing, and although he’s not out of it by any means, Ineos Grenadiers have not shown the dominance that they have in prior Tours de France.
Normally, we’re used to seeing Ineos Grenadiers at the forefront of the race, taking up the stern of the peloton as if they own it, teammates weaving in and out, protecting the lead rider and ensuring no-one makes a break on them. But this year, it’s Team Jumbo-Visma that have assumed that role, working hard to protect Roglič and make sure the Slovenian is in prime condition to mount a charge later in the race.
Roglič did just that at the end of the eighth stage, and although he didn’t win the stage, it was enough to take the yellow jersey off Great Britain’s Adam Yates and deliver on the pre-race hype which surrounded Roglič. There is, of course, an awful long way to go, but from a neutral point of view it is refreshing to see an alternative team dictating proceedings at the Tour de France.
Should Ineos Grenadiers fail to recover in this year’s Tour de France, question marks will perhaps be raised over Brailsford’s team selection, and the decision to leave out both Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome. The exclusion of Froome was perhaps understandable given that he has suffered from injuries in recent times and is approaching the autumn of his career, but Thomas has proved himself an extremely effective Tour de France rider, having won the event in 2018 and finished second last year to teammate Bernal.
This may prove to be something of a transitional year for Ineos Grenadiers, as they seek to make Bernal their number one rider, and integrate the newly acquired Richard Carapaz, who joined from Movistar Team after winning the Giro D’Italia last year. Such a phase could offer the chance for Team Jumbo-Visma to capitalise and make this year’s Tour a race to remember. Roglič has put himself in a good position to break up the Ineos dominance, and it will be interesting to see what transpires as the race progresses.