Team Ineos said “everything is perfect for us” as they threw themselves right back into the Tour de France battle on stage 15.
Cracks in the armour of the British team began to show during the second week, as race leader Julian Alaphilippe began to pull further ahead of reigning champion Geraint Thomas in the Pyrenees.
>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
But the demands of a hard-fought general classification battle appear to be taking their toll on Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), as he cracked on the summit finish at Prat d’Albis and Thomas was able to narrow the advantage slightly.
Ineos still faced threats from all sides however, as Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) launched himself right back into the GC battle and pulling himself back within two minutes of the yellow jersey.
Speaking after stage 15, Team Ineos sports director Nicolas Portal said: “It’s exciting to be in this kind of battle and to see the guys getting better today. It was Pinot today and not Alaphilippe. I’m really impressed.
“The good thing is our guys are stable. G lost a little bit of time yesterday and was back in the game today. We took time on Julian and only Pinot stepped up.”
Pinot persisted with his aggressive tactics near the summit, with Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), Alaphilippe, and Emanual Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) following.
Alaphilippe proved over-ambitious in chasing Pinot, cracking with around 5km of the climb left.
Thomas was able to pass Alaphilippe on the road and claw back seconds, after losing time in both the time trial on stage 13 and on the Tourmalet the following day.
Team Ineos now have Thomas in second overall, 1-35 down on Alaphilippe, and Bernal in fifth at 2-02.
On having two riders in the top-10 as the Tour heads into the second rest day, Portal said: “Everything is perfect for us. They can play the tactics between them, play the two cards and put pressure on Julian or Pinot, but there’s still other guys – Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) was really strong today and he’s got a good team.”