Dave Brailsford has said he will pull Ineos out of the Tour de France if he feels it’s unsafe and the race’s precautions to mitigate the further spread of coronavirus are not good enough.
The French Grand Tour this week announced rescheduled dates for the race, from the original June 27 – July 19 slot to August 29 – September 20, and Brailsford says at this time his team plan on participating.
“We would reserve the right to withdraw the team should we deem it necessary,” Brailsford told the Guardian. “Whilst the race is on, we will plan to participate, but equally we will monitor the evolving nature of how things play out, as we did prior to Paris-Nice. This is a sensible, responsible and reasoned approach.”
Ineos were one of a number of teams who pulled out of Paris-Nice prior to the start, the French stage race being the last WorldTour event held before lockdown swept the continent in an attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
“There will be a lot of debate generated about the rights and wrongs of the transitions out of lockdown across all aspects of society, including sporting events,” Brailsford added. “Equally, most people recognise that the learning from transitioning out of lockdown will only take place once it begins. We will monitor the situation very carefully and of course take note of national guidance and all advice.”
Without any racing, Team Ineos have been proactive in their response to the coronavirus pandemic, helping their chemical giant sponsor to transport a million bottles of hand sanitiser to NHS hospitals.
As for his team’s prospects if the Tour de France does go ahead in August, two former winners are already on Brailsford’s start list in Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas, while the 56-year-old also believes his four-time champion, Chris Froome, will benefit from the two-month delay.
“He’s not complaining [about the delay], let’s put it that way,” Brailsford told the Times. “The one thing about Chris is wow, the guy can train. What he’s doing in his man cave over there – in the gym in the morning, on the turbo, the hours he is putting in on that thing — that hurts, what he is doing now.
“You don’t have the flexibility of being outside, you don’t have the mental stimulus. So to put himself through what he is doing is just insane, it really is. And I do think he sees it as an opportunity. And it is an opportunity, let’s face it.
“If it gives him a little edge where he thinks he can train harder than the rest, and make up for lost time when he was injured, he sees that as well as everybody else and he’s making the most of it, there’s no doubt about it.”