pro cycling

Tour de France 2020 Stage 18: Ineos have a warm feeling in their tummy

egan bernal

Team Ineos are brutal. Business-like. Not the team you’d naturally turn to for a heart-warming tale of brothers-in-arms comradeship. The only time an Ineos rider is contractually allowed to show emotion is when they have failed to deliver on a strategically aligned objective agreed within a fast paced and ever-changing global marketplace.

See Egan Bernal’s Stage 15 slump, where tears began to flow the very moment projected sales of that massive Grenadier 4×4 vehicle they’ve been hawking so keenly began to dip.

Ok, I’m being harsh.

But you get my drift.

They are not a touchy-feely team.

Which made today’s finish line double-act of Richard Carapaz and Michal Kwiatkowski all the more enjoyable. It was a lovely, surprising conclusion to another massive day of Alps.

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As much as anything it’s odd to see Ineos infiltrating the breaks. They are a team dedicated to the controlled chess-match of the General Classification. They are about judiciously judged efforts and calculated percentages, not the dribs and drabs of guerilla warfare found off the front of a hilly race.

With a hundred kilometres to go the break comprised five. Into the final ten our pair had it sealed; five minutes clear of the third placed man, having bent the mayhem to the will of their tightly controlled rhythm. Never had a massive Alpine breakaway win contained so little jeopardy.

They had a little chat on the finish straight. Either Carapaz generously extended the win or Kwiato pulled rank. Or, I suppose, the boffins back at base may have crunched the numbers to find that a Polish win would sell more cars.

I’m at it again.

How horribly cynical of me.

It was unashamedly lovely. All back slaps and coy glances, no concern for time gains and vice-like teamwork, but just good-old-fashioned in-the-moment humanity.

They had a little chat and cuddle, and crossed the line together (bar the two inch gap eeked out by Kwiatkowski).

A stage for him, a polka-dot jersey for his pal, and post-stage declarations of love all-round. It felt like the moment when Carapaz went from being big name signing and highly-paid results machine to teammate with a back story, an anecdote, and a shared experience.

Beyond that, the GC drama largely took pace on the climb of the Montee du Plateau des Glieres; steep, Sound-of-Music meadows all around, and a pesky stretch of gravel beyond the summit.

Gravel, as we know, being the current road surface du jour. To see our neatly turned out roadies negotiate it on their precision machines was a little undignified. Gravel requires thick tyres, cargo shorts, and ideally beards, in order to work. This was a kilometre and a half of please-god-don’t-let-me-puncture!

Richie Porte, with a slice of his famous bad luck, punctured.

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Bouncing and sliding with a flat tyre, he struggled on, losing thirty seconds before executing a bike change and chasing successfully back. Proof that v6.3 (or whatever edition we’re currently on) of Richie Porte can recover from misfortune.

From there, the GC group of Roglic, Pogacar, Porte et al remained intact until the finish at La Roche sur Foron. The losers from that selection being Adam Yates and Rigoberto Uran who had slumped and sagged many kilometres back, pre-gravel, to the tune of nearly two minutes.

Today, Stage 18, was about Team Ineos.

Just people, pals, on a cycling team, winning a bike race, and giving us all a warm feeling in our collective tummy.

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