La Vuelta thrives on chaos. It resists categorisation and rewards attacks. So why has Ineos' performance so far at this final Grand Tour of the year been the most muted of the three?
Surely, given all the talk about its new, refreshing racing style – not to mention an incredibly juicy roster of adventurous stage racing talent picked for the Spanish Grandy – Ineos should be throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Roglic and his team. Instead, the British squad's performance so far has been cagey at best, if not downright dull.
We have seen Roglic win stage races before and we know how he does it. He gets ahead and then dominates from the front. He doesn't seem fazed by the extra burdens of overall leadership – the extra press commitments, the doping control, the external and internal pressure. In fact, he thrives on being the leader and defending, saying himself that he likes races best when everything that can be controlled, is.
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Since 2019, Roglic has spent more race days wearing the leader's jersey of a race than he has his own regular team kit.
Two days ago, Eurosport expert pundit Adam Blythe urged Ineos to attack, describing their default racing style as "predictable". He is right.

'Predictable Ineos have great opportunity to attack' - Blythe

Stage seven did not really present the sort of opportunities to win or lose the Vuelta. The mountains were tough but not tough enough to really separate the best climbers from one another. Nevertheless, it was only Movistar, not Ineos, that seemed minded to attack Roglic during the stage. It was during one such attempt to distance the defending champ that the Spanish team's Alejandro Valverde skidded out and crashed, ultimately bringing his Vuelta to an end. Valverde was joined in that attack by Richard Carapaz and Adam Yates, but neither seemed minded to help him out. They took token, short pulls, but didn't really invest in the move. When the 41-year-old Murcian crashed, they knocked off the effort and were soon back in the peloton with the rest of the favourites.
With the departure of Valverde, the race has lost at least one protagonist with real DGAF energy. The seasoned Spanish campaigner could be relied upon to attack, if nothing else. Maybe he wouldn't do it at the most tactically apposite time. Maybe he would up the pace just as a teammate (usually Marc Soler) was going back for bottles, or he would seem to attack just as a GC rival had a mechanical – but at least he would attack. He was a genuine source of chaos in the race, the kind of chaos that has proven to be Roglic's kryptonite on the rare occasions that he has come unstuck. Without Valverde, the race is poorer and the onus to create some of that uncertainty falls onto the likes of Yates and Carapaz.
In this pair, Ineos has two of the most exciting stage racers in the world. Carapaz looks a little bit knackered at the moment (who can blame him, after racing the Tour and taking Olympic gold in the last two months?) but Yates has been building his entire season to this race. And then in Bernal you have another rider whose natural inclination is to attack, rather than defend. Right now he is the team's best-placed rider, sixth at 41 seconds, and their interests are better served by having him mark Roglic – but that approach is only worthwhile if there is some pressure on the race leader that could eventually force a crack, the like of which we saw at Paris-Nice earlier this year.

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So far it has seemed like Ineos are more afraid of losing their GC spots (they have two in the top 10 and Carapaz lurking in 16th) than they are motivated to try and improve them. We'll see if that's the case tomorrow when the race heads for the Alto de Velefique, the first Especial category climb of the 2021 edition. Velefique is preceded by the category 1 Alto Collado Venta Luisa, which reaches 1,970m above sea level, and this one-two punch should provide a perfect battleground for a proper high-mountain grudge match.
If there is one encouraging sign of more exciting Ineos racing to come at La Vuelta, it's the interview Yates gave Eurosport this morning. In it, he hinted the team would try some attacks this weekend – and with Stage 8 all-but-neutralised from a GC perspective, he must have had Sunday's Stage 9 in mind when he said "if you don't try you won't know."

'If you don't try you won't know' - Yates hints at Ineos attacking mindset

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