By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Veteran Geraint Thomas will lead the Ineos Grenadiers Tour de France bid this year with surprise Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart in a supporting role, team boss Dave Brailsford said.
Welshman Thomas, who turns 35 in May, was left off the Ineos’s Tour de France squad last year because of poor form, and was later forced out of the Giro after an accident.
But Brailsford has no doubt that Thomas can challenge for a second Tour triumph, having won it in 2018.
“He is very motivated for it. Given the time-trialling, the nature of the climbing, the first week and the crosswinds, that element lends itself well to his skills and attributes,” Brailsford told reporters when outlining the season’s plans. “On paper it’s a great Tour for Geraint.”
Brailsford said Richard Carapaz would focus on the Tour de France and Colombian Egan Bernal, who won the Tour in 2019 but was disappointing last year, would prioritise the Giro.
“I wouldn’t rule out Egan doubling up into the Tour, that’s very possible. But we’ll assess that one as we get closer,” Brailsford said.
Londoner Geoghegan Hart, who won a thrilling Giro on the final-day time trial in Milan, might have been expecting to try to defend his title, but Brailsford said that the 25-year-old’s development would be better served by tackling the Tour.
“Actually in terms of his progression and development, it felt like actually riding the Tour was the next step, it was another new challenge,” Brailsford said.
“So we decided with him that he was very, very motivated and very excited to go and go race the Tour this year.”
Brailsford said he was excited at the prospect of the new season, in which Ineos will be boosted by the return of Australian Richie Porte and the arrival of Adam Yatesv, who is earmarked for the Vuelta.
“I don’t know what has happened; it is hard to put my finger on it, but everybody is really excited about the season getting going again,” Brailsford said. “There’s a new vigour and it feels very different being the Grenadiers than it did maybe towards the latter years of Sky when we were a relentless winning machine.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman. Editing by Gerry Doyle)