Ineos left trailing in Pogačar's wake
CYCLING WEEKLY|July 08, 2021
Hopes founder for British team as bad luck combined with a rampaging defending champion reduce them to a supporting role, Peter Cossins reports
Peter Cossins

Before the Tour de France reached its first rest day in Tignes, Ineos’s hopes of playing anything more than a supporting role in the race they focus their entire year on, had all but disappeared. Sunk by a mixture of dreadful luck and the unmatchable talent of Tadej Pogacar, who was proving unbeatable on every kind of terrain, the British team’s stranglehold on the race is now well and truly broken.

For the second year in a row, Ineos were left hunting for consolation prizes in the shape of stage wins and, perhaps, a podium finish for their dogged Ecuadorian battler Richard Carapaz.

It shouldn’t, of course, have been like this. Ineos arrived at the Tour with their confidence restored by a string of stage race successes, including the Giro d’Italia and the Critérium du Dauphiné, and with a leader-heavy line-up that was roundly tipped as being capable of relieving the precocious Pogacar of the yellow jersey he won in such astounding fashion in 2020.

In their pre-Tour press conference, the British squad fielded a quartet of potential leaders: Geraint Thomas, who appeared to be back in the form that carried him to the 2018 Tour title; 2019 Giro winner Carapaz; 2020 Giro victor Tao Geoghegan Hart; and Dauphiné winner Richie Porte.

Yet, even before the race had completed its four-day Grand Départ in Brittany, Ineos’s strategy of power in numbers was in pieces. Porte and Geoghegan Hart crashed on day one, the former losing significant time but not suffering serious injury, the latter more significantly affected in both areas. Two days on, Thomas was the victim of Breton road furniture, a loss of control as he negotiated a speed bump leaving him on the deck with a dislocated shoulder.

Peerless Pogacar

Then, what L’Équipe dubbed “hurricane Pogacar” blew in. The boyish UAE Team Emirates leader offered a first show of strength by winning the Laval time trial, then swept away all of his rivals’ hopes as the Tour raced through an Alpine deluge.

“I’ve never experienced anything like we’ve had since the opening day in Brest, it’s been totally crazy every day, every day’s been a rollercoaster, with new guys appearing on GC almost every day,” said Ineos directeur sportif Gabriel Rasch.

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