Tour de France: Five factors behind Ineos flop

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Culoz (France) (AFP)

British pro cycling team Ineos suffered a generational flop in the Tour de France on Sunday after dominating the world's greatest cycling race for a decade.

Here AFP looks at some of the factors behind their failure as their defending Tour champion Egan Bernal dropped to 15th in the overall standings after a mountain showdown went horribly wrong.

Jumbo the elephant in Ineos front room

In 2019 Ineos team principal Dave Brailsford described the emerging Dutch force Jumbo as the most expansive thinkers in the peloton. In the 2020 edition they have dominated proceedings in the way Ineos previous did with an outstanding line-up. Ineos simply came up against a hugely powerful team.

Covid-19

During the confinement caused by the coronavirus pandemic three of the Ineos riders were in far flung Latin America, and questions are now being raised about the depth of their preparation as Tour champion Bernal and co-captain Richard Carapaz, the defending Giro champion, have been run ragged.

Death of their charismatic director

Nicholas Portal was the avuncular sports director who cajoled and encouraged riders in their race earpieces. The affable Frenchman died suddenly at his home in Andorra aged 40 in March having played a key role at Ineos and Sky since 2013.

Froome and Thomas miss Tour cut

Ineos announced they would race the Tour with Bernal, four-time winner Chris Froome and 2018 winner Geraint Thomas, but the latter two were judged neither fit nor motivated enough to support the Colombian and placed in the Vuelta Espana and Giro d'Italia respectively. Their absence left the team with less clout and the 23-year-old Bernal exposed.

Bernal was the man to beat

In 209 Bernal raced under the radar with the charismatic Thomas as defending champion in the hot-seat soaking up the pressure. The man from the Andes then took the Tour by the throat when the race went to 2770m in altitude. In the spotlight and with major opposition this time around, Bernal had been trying to cling on in 2020 until Wednesday, when the Tour goes up to 2300m on the Meribel mountain. But his defence is in tatters and Ineos are in need of a rethink.