Bradley Wiggins has explained why both Egan Bernal and Remco Evenepoel are "vulnerable" ahead of a crucial day at the 2021 Giro d'Italia.
An intriguing tactical conundrum faces both Bernal and Ineos ahead of the decisive summit finish on Stage 9 of the Giro d'Italia, while Evenepoel is also very much in the mix in his key comeback race.
Wiggins has predicted an all-out attack from the British team, while Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly has suggested that a more strategic approach might bear fruit in the longer-term.
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But speaking on The Bradley Wiggins Show podcast, the 2012 Tour de France champion, along with fellow Eurosport expert Adam Blythe, made it clear that the superstar pair are also vulnerable ahead of what should be a fascinating Stage 9 on Sunday.
"We have to [start thinking of Evenepoel as a legitimate contender]," Wiggins said on his latest Eurosport podcast.
"I don't think anyone knows; I don't think he knows. He said his legs were tired in the last few days and it is the longest he has ever been into a race, isn't it. Nine months after he broke his pelvis last year.
It could just snap for him one day and he could lose a packet and I still think Bernal... I mean, they are both vulnerable, aren't they, because there is an element of the unknown with the pair of them.
"We just don't know. Is Bernal's back going to hold up for three weeks? But I think Ineos have the strongest team in the mountains. I think Bernal is going to put his mark down one day, potentially on Sunday as well.
"But is Evenepoel willing to push the envelope out enough to win the race? Or will he be satisfied, in his first Giro after nine months away, back racing to finish on the podium? Who knows!
'They will go on the attack' - Wiggins predicts Ineos aggression on Stage 9
"They [Ineos] will go on the offensive every time they race. Dave [Brailsford] used to use a great term when we were racing like that and it was 'stop dithering'.
"Dave would just like to be on the offensive and on the front and that's what they stopped doing for a while, last year in the Tour and things weren't going great for them. They were always on the back foot.
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"The way they have always ridden and the way they have ridden best, even if they don't deliver at the end of it, is to go on the offensive and to put those guys on the front.
"I think it is putting that marker down, really, and stamping their authority, which is what they are good at doing and they have been doing a lot more this year."
Wiggins also paid tribute to the efforts and ability of Filippo Ganna, riding for Ineos in his home Grand Tour.
"He [Ganna] has been unbelievable. He is phenomenal, isn't he," Wiggins said.
"He reminds me of Fabian Cancellara in his pomp, or the other one who was like that was Taylor Phinney. On his day he is like a Cancellara or a Phinney.
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Blythe added: "He's got a similar engine to you [Wiggins]. He is unbelievable, the power he can produce. He's not quite the best at climbing but he is getting there.
"He is a key man to have and he is riding around with Bernal every day. He is doing a fantastic job for him and is a key rider for that team."
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