Tour de France 2022: 'Can’t trump talent with money' - Bradley Wiggins fires Ineos warning amid Tadej Pogacar domination
Bradley Wiggins admits Ineos Grenadiers need to change their approach, arguing that the “Sky way” of doing things no longer works in an era containing Slovenian sensations Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic. The former will make his debut in the cobbled spring Classics at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, with Wiggins fearing he will again be almost impossible to stop at the Tour de France.
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That’s the ominous warning for Ineos Grenadiers from Discovery Cycling expert Bradley Wiggins, who is urging the British outfit to make good on their vow to attack more.
Ineos’ vice-like grip on cycling’s biggest races has loosened since the emergence of Slovenian double-act Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Primoz Rolgic (Jumbo Visma), with their last yellow jersey at the Tour de France coming in 2019.
With Egan Bernal, their last Grand Tour champion, on the comeback trail from a life-threatening crash, another difficult season is on the cards – even if they do boast three major stage race winners in Geraint Thomas, Richard Carapaz and Tao Geoghegan Hart.
Speaking at Discovery’s year of cycling launch, 2012 Tour champion Wiggins admitted: “I think it's very difficult [for Ineos]. You can't trump talent with money and other riders.
“At the end of day, once the road goes uphill, Pogacar has proof and he’s an athlete. It's so difficult to [stop him]. He's just a special athlete.
“We say these riders come along once in a generation, but there seems to be quite a lot coming along at the moment in each generation.”
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In Bernal’s absence, and with multi-discipline star Tom Pidcock yet to turn his full focus towards a Grand Tour charge, Thomas and Carapaz are expected to fight for Ineos leadership duties at the Tour.
Ineos (formerly Team Sky) won seven out of eight yellow jerseys between 2012 and 2019, with Chris Froome winning four in his pomp on the back of Wiggins’ success in 2012.
However, they have been forced to settle for Giro d’Italia's maglia rosa the past two seasons, via Geoghegan Hart and Bernal, after Pogacar’s explosion onto the scene and Roglic's stranglehold at La Vuelta.
“As much as I'd love to see Geraint Thomas win a second Tour, you have to think it's going to be very, very difficult,” Wiggins continued.
“Just the momentum that Pogacar is gaining now, two Tour de France wins, his dominance in the early season races. Barring a crash or injury, you can't see anyone really dismantling [him] other than Primoz Roglic.
“The strength that Jumbo-Visma [have], the continued strength that UAE is growing every year, they're almost inspired by Pogacar’s efforts on a bike and it's going to be very difficult.
“I can't see Ineos [challenging], other than maybe Tom Pidcock but not at this age. Certainly you can probably throw his name into the ring in the next few years if he wants to go down that road.”
Pogacar has won three of his four races in 2022, with a maiden Strade Bianche win sandwiched between triumphs at the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico. He will make his debut in the cobbled spring Classics at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Roglic ended his Paris-Nice hoodoo earlier in March and has won the past three Vueltas.
When put to Wiggins that Ineos might not have the riders to challenge Pogacar and Roglic, Wiggins added: “I think they have the right talent. They might need to change the ‘Sky way’ of doing things.
"They did make a suggestion last year, that they wanted to get back to pure racing and attacking and being on the front foot. I think they've already realised that they can't put the Sky train up and race how they used to race.”
The ‘Sky train’ refers to them getting the leaders’ jersey early on, then coshing the life out of mountain stages with the bludgeoning force of their ‘mountain train’ to prevent any sustained attacks.
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“They do have the right talent in the likes of [Tom] Pidcock and people like that,” Wiggins said.
“You saw the difference between Carapaz when he won the Giro [in 2019 with Movistar] and the way he won that Giro.
"Since he's been at Ineos, it's taken him a while to re-find his feet. And he’s had to race differently to how he raced at Movistar in order to win those races or certainly be up there.
"He’s obviously been third at the Tour last year and he won the Olympic road race, but he won that in his national colours.
"So they do have the right talent. But I think they realised last year, when they made that statement that they had to change their way of doing things, it's much more of an attacking thing compared to the way they did when they won it with myself and Geraint Thomas. So they definitely have to change.”
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