“I don’t think you ever look backward,” Dave Brailsford begins, leaving sentimentality at the door before beginning the 2020 Tour de France with the relative poverty of only one previous winner in his squad, having left both Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas at home, albeit only 30 minutes down the road in Monaco.
“Obviously we had a lot of success over the years and learned a lot together…but you always look at the current situation, you look forward.”
Sir Dave is not here to mess about. He’s already done his best Mourinho impression, saying the pressure this year is on aging contenders such as Thibaut Pinot, Tom Dumoulin and Primož Roglič, rather than his 23-year-old defending champion. But if he wasn’t hell-bent on winning an eighth title he could have probably found space on the bus for the two men who have been responsible for filling his wardrobe with yellow jerseys.
“I think we’ve got to focus on the team that we have here. I’m very excited about the team we have, a young team, mixed with a blend of very experience support riders. I’m very pleased. While it’s been a fantastic journey and the rest of the season will focus on Geraint and Chris, for now, everything is focused on here. I’m very confident in the team that we have here.”
You can expect Ineos to come out swinging, and despite the understated nature of the team’s South American Tour duo, as long as Brailsford is around they will still walk around with a certain swagger.
“We’ve won this race more than any other team, our riders in this race are more experienced, have won more Grand Tours than any other team, and our collective knowledge about how to win the Tour de France is greater than anyone else.”
In Egan Bernal and Richard Carapaz, Ineos boast two-thirds of the 2019 Grand Tour winners, and it will be the younger rider who receives full support on the road.
“Egan is the out-and-out leader, he deserves the right to be the leader, he won last year, he’s a brilliant rider, and we all know that he’s a great talent,” Brailsford re-iterated. “We’ll start the race very much with Egan as the outright leader of the team and support him support him fully in that.”
The only question mark will be the back injury that forced Bernal to abandon the Critérium du Dauphiné as a precaution, the Colombian saying he’s feeling much better but is still recovering.
“I still am in a little bit of back pain, to be honest. I’m much better than I was at the Dauphiné, there I was in really bad pain, but I’m getting better,” Bernal explained. “I’m hoping to [get better] during the Tour and try to recover [fully], especially for the last week.”
The real pain can be seen when Bernal is asked about Nicolas Portal, who passed away suddenly in March after suffering a heart attack.
“It will be strange ey,” Bernal begins, his eyes welling up as he struggles to find the words. “Especially to not hear him on my radio, to hear him speak. It will be strange but we will do our best for him, I hope to do well.”