How Ineos Grenadiers kickstarted their season: 'You can see our expansive, intelligent racing'

The British team have won five times in the past fortnight

Ineos Grenadiers 2022 Tour of the Basque Country
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ineos Grenadiers are not naïve enough to expect to be beating Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar in stage races, and thus they have adapted to reality and changed the way that they approach races.

The British team, for a decade the masters in topping general classifications, have only topped the GC of one race this season, the recent Coppi e Bartali in Italy that was won by Eddie Dunbar.

At this week's Tour of the Basque Country they are in contention for the ultimate honour with stage four victor Dani Martínez and Adam Yates, but ultimately few anticipate that they can deny Jumbo-Visma's Roglič from defending his title.

It's why, therefore, they are focusing on winning stages, and trying to disrupt the GC with strength in numbers, as seen on stage four when Martínez tried a few digs and Geraint Thomas was part of the day's breakaway.

"We're not leading the race, so it's not our responsibility to control the race, so we're trying to find the balance of balancing GC aspirations with winning stages as well. I think we did that really well today," said Steve Cummings who is in his second year as a DS with the team.

"We are trying to give the riders opportunities. The challenge is also to balance those opportunities with responsibilities.

"We have to consider many, many things before we make a tactic. A bike race is so dynamic, and things can change a lot. The guys know how to race, so we give them a vision of the race, outline what their roles could be, spend time talking to them, and trying to understand what they think is possible, alongside the other things such as power and TSS [Training Stress Score] that we look at as well."

Cummings, a two-time Tour de France stage winner who retired as a pro at the end of 2019, compared the current incarnation of the team to the one that he faced as a rival. 

"It's very, very different," he said. "The team have said themselves that they don't want to be robotic. They want to be intelligent but have an expansive racing style, and that's what we're trying to do. I think you can see that recently in the Flanders races, in Catalonia, and here. It's working well."

In March's Paris-Nice, Martínez finished third, 2-37 behind winner Roglič, while at Tirreno-Adriatico Richie Porte was the team's highest finisher in fourth, almost three minutes adrift of winner Pogačar.

In the absence of Egan Bernal who is recovering remarkably quickly from his horror training accident, Ineos have had to rely more on Yates, Martínez and Richard Carapaz for results.

"Any team that has that happen to them cannot replace a rider like Egan," Cummings said. "But the other guys are stepping up. You seen Dani win today; Adam has been consistent at the UAE Tour, in Paris-Nice, here; Carapaz won a stage in Catalonia [and finished second overall - ed], so we're working as hard as we possibly can to close the gaps on these two Slovenians.

"I don't look too much to the other teams: we concentrate on ourselves and we're in a good moment. We have a lot of young riders coming through and the older riders are still performing well. We are racing really attractively and everyone's really performing."

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Martínez's win on stage four of the Basque Country was his first racing since joining the team (excluding his Colombian time trial title in January), and Cummings has backed him to do well at this summer's Tour de France where it is expected he will be co-leader alongside Yates.

"That's his trajectory," Cummings said. "He was fifth last year at the Giro helping Egan, and he's stepped up again this year. He's an amazing guy to work with - we're lucky to have him in the team."

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