Team Ineos is not looking for any excuses to explain the 10-minute loss by its classification leaders Tao Geoghegan Hart and Wout Poels in the second day of the Vuelta a España 2019.
The two slipped back early on the climb when Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) attacked and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) rode to an eventual stage win in Calpe. Neither Hart nor Poels were top favourites to win the overall, but the result surprised some.
“We don’t want to hide anything, there’s not any kind of excuses,” Ineos sports director Nicolas Portal said.
“It was hot but not too hot, it was hard but not too hard. They were [upset], especially Tao and Wout. They expect much more than what they did. David [De La Cruz] was not too bad, I think he misses a little bit of race speed, but that was not really what we expected.”
Portal admitted that any hope of winning the race overall is gone already 48 hours into the Spanish tour. In Calpe, often a place for vacation celebrations, Ineos finished upset with its captains at 9-51 behind Quintana.
“David is at two minutes so he wants to see if he can get better. A good break or something sometime, and you can move up but for Wout and Tao, it’s going to be a different scenario,” Portal continued.
“We have [eight] summit finishes with different lengthens and that [suits] our guys, so for sure, well we hope some of the breaks will stay away and this is where Tao and Wout can be can be a good scenario to jump on them.”
Chris Froome is out with a broken leg, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal are taking a break after Thomas placed second and Bernal won the Tour de France in July.
“As you can see, we didn’t come here with with a big expectation to win the Vuelta,” he added.
“We’re going to support to Tao and Wout, Tao especially because he’s young and he wants a chance after missing the Giro [abandoning with a broken collarbone], but now with Tao and Wout at 10 minutes that changes things earlier than if would be after one week.”
The team will shift to stage wins and supporting De La Cruz as much as possible. He sits 2-02 minutes behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in second place. Nicolas Roche (Sunweb) leads the race overall.
“We didn’t prepare for this Vuelta to go for the victory, but we still wanted it. We love these races actually, Grand Tours are our speciality,” Portal said.
“Our top guys had a hard year, but we can give an opportunity for the guys who, all day and every day during the year, are very dedicated for the top guys.”