There is a lesson that many dominant personalities learn the hard way and that is that while winning is important if you want to be truly loved by the fans, it is important to be generous when defeated. It was a thing up to five times. Tour de France Winner Bernard Henault knew, or at least pretended, but at least then realized there was an effort to be made. Pleading or not.
If this were a trait that even the most competitive fierce characters could come up with at the end, you’d think that those known for saying they’d be open, transparent and doing things in a modern way would have taken up the idea from the start. One can formulate it as a communication strategy that shapes the narrative, but let’s not be sympathetic to Dave Brailsford and the INEOS team.
The team’s press conference on a rest day Tour de France Not infrequently, it’s what every team has been doing for a long time. Talking about their chances, giving some hints about plans, ambitions or reasons for past offers – it’s time to talk in general about how things have gone so far and what the rest of the race might hold. So, as the toughest part of the Tour de France 2020 continues, Monday 14 September – the second day of rest, we waited to hear when Ineos Grenadiers A press conference will be held.
And we waited.
And we waited.
We’ve waited so long for it to be Tuesday and there is still nothing. The promised appearances didn’t happen via video or other team management, so we can only assume that we’ll make our own inferences about what we say about the overall setup that dominated and won seven out of the last eight rounds. When you say nothing, others, in this case, the media, will fill the information void on your behalf.
I know assuming anything is a recipe for disaster, but in this case, the questions that were awaiting to be raised remained unanswered, even after Dave Brailsford finally broke the cover He spoke to a journalist on Tuesday.
Let’s start with the obvious. What happened to Egan Bernal? Could it be his death on the slopes of the Grand Colombier due to his bad back first reported in the Critérium de Dauphiné? If so, why did he go out on a practice run the day after giving up the pre-tour.
Looking at how the defending champion’s condition has gradually worsened towards week 3 rather than better, as the team has promised, you can only conclude that something went wrong with planning his shape. He looks tired, exhausted, without freshness and the race cannot be over which means you have to blame his training.
Apply the same consideration to the rest of the Ineos and aside from Michal Kwiatkowski, they were all sub-par. Amador and especially Sivakov have mitigating circumstances due to his injury in collisions. I’ve seen them have to warm up before the stages to make sure they’re somehow prepared for the pain they’ll have to go for, but where have the others been?
There were small movements when the team temporarily took control of the peloton and tried to dictate speed, however, that was an illusion, and the only people who were injured were themselves.
Since the race resumed, we have seen that the team has not established itself and there has been talk that the level has moved forward. In Dauphiné, Jumbo-Visma was in control and there was a suggestion that the Dutch team peaked too early. Well, that didn’t happen, albeit only slightly, and most worryingly, teams like Sunweb, Bora and EF Pr cycling had a greater impact on racing than Dave Brailsford.
We have been consistently told that winning the round is the only goal of the British-based team, the selections made and the planning made in advance and every little detail has been passed over to ensure they win. Except that it went wrong this year affected by COVID-19. Despite the cushions and the wheels are lightweight.
They have two days to save their stage win, but I would be surprised if any of the riders could manage that. They are groomed and trained to do tempo, not accelerate mode or win fast races. As seen with Lennard Latina, Richard Carabaz shot down the winner of Giro Stage 16The malaise is deep.
You could argue that their regular plan was bothered by the virus, but the other teams managed the situation better. Perhaps we should remember the words uttered in 2015 by Team Management regarding their five-year plan.
“Our mission for 2020 is very simple – to be the undisputed and consistently best cycling team in the world.”
We are here in 2020 and the arrogance of the statement is evident. They haven’t been consistent this year and they seem disputed, too.
Recent interviews by Geriant Thomas and Chris Fromm have added to confusion about recent choices and decisions. Everyone seems to have forgotten the situation in mid-August, when none of the contestants was good enough in Dauphiné, despite saying they expected a lead role on the tour.
They weren’t chosen because their shape simply wasn’t where it should be, so now it’s very good to suggest that things would have been different. They wouldn’t be because we saw Ineos’ passengers in better shape than they were in competition with Roglič and the company. You can’t say I didn’t deserve to pick one week and then change it up the next.
Dave Brailsford and his sporting director have put together the best team based on time information, and we’re now on the tour they came up with shortly after. The presence of Thomas or Fromm in France would not have changed that because this appears to be a collective failure.
So, we go back to silence about the reasons for this failure because when you say you have the best people, the best support, the knowledge and the talent that a big budget can buy, there are legitimate questions that will be asked. Like what you think happened, what lessons will be learned and why are other teams doing better with less than half the resources?
Would it have been better to give your young riders a chance than to keep buying anyone who wins the bigger stage races? Because that doesn’t necessarily build a core group that feels valued and respected.
When you dominate as Sky / Ineos did, there comes a time when it begins to unravel, history tells us. What matters now is how you handle this situation and how defeated you are.