Strength in depth Team Ineos's saving grace after loss of Chris Froome for Tour de France

The British team's ability to attract talented riders from different generations means not everything is lost for the Tour after Chris Froome's injury

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Team Ineos may not have to make drastic changes to its potential Tour de France line-up in the absence of injured four-time champion Chris Froome such is its strength in depth.

>>> Chris Froome in intensive care after undergoing surgery following Critérium du Dauphiné crash

The squad, operating as Sky last season, finished first and third overall in Paris with Geraint Thomas winning a maiden maillot jaune ahead of Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Froome.

Thomas arguably was able to capitalise on reduced pressure for part of the race, with pundits incorrectly assuming Froome was the designated leader the Welshman would eventually cede to.

Team Ineos principal David Brailsford on Wednesday rued the loss of Froome, who was seriously injured in a recon ride crash before stage four of the Critérium du Dauphiné, saying the champion all-rounder was in-form for a record equalling fifth Tour title attempt.

The scenario is devastating but not necessarily disaster for Ineos, which will still likely have Thomas and young climber Egan Bernal at the Grand Départ in Brussels, Belgium.

Froome will not be able to compete for a fifth Tour de France title in 2019 (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bernal was the MVP in the high mountains of the Tour last year. The Colombian’s sensational rookie pro performance (he finished 15th overall in addition) was enough to earn him backing for a Giro d’Italia title shot in May, which was sadly scrapped due to injury.

The 2018 Tour showcased multiple generations Ineos has secured and can rely on in situations like it faces now, without having to make wholesale changes to tactics or expectations as some rivals would.

Speaking at the Tour of California last month, road captain Luke Rowe observed the amalgamation of Ineos’s original stable and generation two and 3.0, which have begun to make an impression.

“I wouldn’t say a cultural change but it’s just out with the old and in with the new, it’s a natural progression of sport and in general. The older guys are going to fade out and the younger guys are going to rise to the top,” Rowe told Cycling Weekly.

“I think we’re in a position now where we’ve got an incredible bunch of young guys. Not just one or two, I think we’ve got five or six guys who will be or are already at the top of the sport but will really be the names on everyone’s lips for the next five or 10 years hopefully.

“A lot of them are here at Team Ineos right now. It’s quite an exciting future and it’s good to ride alongside people like that and work with people who are hungry, motivated and hopefully future champions.

“It’s exciting but in terms of a culture change no, I’d say it’s the same as ever. We’re going to races, giving our best, doing things the right way and hopefully the results will come.”

>>> How will the Tour de France change without Chris Froome?

The team has won six of the past seven editions of the Tour, four of those via Froome.

Estimates suggest Ineos has one of if not the biggest budget in the WorldTour and with that can develop the squad it has, procure rivals and elite resources to achieve pre-eminence.

“Budget certainly plays a part of course because you’ve got to have the financial backing to attract these guys, but at the same time they’ve got to want to come as well because they think it’s the best place for them,” said Rowe.

“I think when you see young riders come to the team and flourish it’s going to attract other younger riders to try and do the same and replicate that.

“Of course, people will just say it’s the budget. But I think it’s a lot of things. It’s a nice environment to work in and I think the team does a really good job in getting the best out of each and every rider, which from the outside riders can see. It’s an attractive place to come and race.”

All that being said, Brailsford’s set-up is fallible.

When an injured Froome abandoned the 2014 Tour de France on a rain-soaked cobble stage to Arenberg because of crash-related injuries, Vincenzo Nibali won the race with Astana.

Nibali competed in yellow virtually the whole Tour save for two days that saw Marcel Kittel and Tony Gallopin, respectively, lead overall.

With or without Froome, that script may not have changed. Notably though, Brailsford’s men weren’t simply able move one up the procession order and stormtrooper Froome’s then second-in-command Richie Porte onto the podium.

Unlike 2014, Ineos now has time to digest this setback and make considered mental and physical adjustments. The human element of Froome’s condition was what team-mates and rivals alike referred to first yesterday.

It remains to be seen how or if the ripple effect from the Dauphiné will reshape the 2019 Tour de France landscape.

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