Riders far back on GC have to attack on Tour de France Pyrenees opener, says Nicolas Portal

The Team Ineos sports director says the plan is to stay united in the face of ambitious attacks

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If they are going to have a chance at the Tour de France, then the riders further down in the classification need to attack on the stage 12 Pyrenes opener,  according to Team Ineos sports director Nicolas Portal.

Portal, overseeing Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal, says that rivals like Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) could make their moves over the day’s two daunting climbs.

“I don’t expect a big shake up on the GC because the next day we have the TT,” Portal told Cycling Weekly.

“If you are quite close in the GC and you try to [go hard] on the front, the next day you could pay for it in the TT and the next day, the big summit finish at the Tourmalet. For the guys who are far back on the GC, they can try to do a long one. I think they have to.”

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Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) leads the race overall by 1-12 over Geraint Thomas after 11 stages of the Tour de France 2019. 

Thomas leads the potential Tour winners, with four seconds on Egan Bernal and 15 seconds on Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), and a much larger buffer on other major rivals. Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First) trails by around two minutes, Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) by more.

“I would say this is the hors d’oeuvres, the starter. There are still two hard climbs, the Peyresourde and the Hourquette. It’s pretty hard climb, it’s on a small road, all in the forest, pretty steep, and then on the top there are still a lot of kilometres going down, descending to the finish,” said Portal.



“Because then it’s three days hard, the TT, then the Tourmalet summit finish at altitude, where you have to go deep also, and the next day the summit finish at altitude with a long stage in the Pyrenees. Three days to back it up.”

The two passes go just above 1500 metres on stage 12 and the second, final climb is followed by a descent of around 32km.

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Team Ineos wants to rally around Thomas and Bernal to help them save their energy for the 27.2km time trial on stage 13, where Thomas could take more time on his rivals.

“It will be okay for us as long as we stay united,” added Portal. “We can expect to be attacked by anyone, but we have to stay all together and work as a unit, but it will be more about making sure our leaders G and Egan don’t spend energy and we bring them to the finish.”