Analysing the Ineos Grenadiers Giro d'Italia long list

As Geraint Thomas sets his sight on the Giro's pink jersey, we analyse the strength of his potential squad, from veteran domestiques to the next generation of Grenadiers

Clock11:17, Friday 26th January 2024
Geraint Thomas will be looking to go one better than last year and carry the pink jersey all the way to Rome

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Geraint Thomas will be looking to go one better than last year and carry the pink jersey all the way to Rome

The Giro d’Italia is still several months away but that doesn’t mean that teams aren’t building their squads and monitoring riders as they prepare for the first men’s Grand Tour of the 2024 season.

At Ineos Grenadiers the focus is once more on Geraint Thomas with the Welshman aiming to avenge the bitter defeat he suffered at the hands of Primož Roglič in 2023. Just 14 seconds separated the Welshman from his second Grand Tour title, and with a favourable course, the 37-year-old will be hoping to go one better. He just needs to deal with a small matter of UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogačar, of course.

Read more: Pogačar fulfils a childhood dream in riding the Giro d'Italia

Joining Thomas on the startline on May 4 will be a robust squad mixed with rouleurs and experienced climbers. The official long list hasn’t been announced, confirmed or shared with the media but GCN understands that there are ten names in contention and in this analysis, we’ve run through the riders Ineos are potentially preparing for Italy.

Geraint Thomas

Age: 37

Team Role: Team Leader

Analysis: It’s been almost six years since Thomas made the top step on a Grand Tour podium but the Welshman remains Ineos’ best chance of top-three success in 2024 - a notion that both squarely demonstrates his longevity and Ineos’ standing within the sport.

Read more: Geraint Thomas to ride both Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in 2024

Thomas has been a life-saver at times for his employers, providing competitiveness at both the Tour de France in 2022 and the Giro d'Italia last year. This year’s Giro arguably suits him more than UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogačar, and if he can find his feet early and maintain his focus then another top-three should be attainable. Conversely, he could perform better in this year’s Giro than he did 12 months ago and still find himself further away from the pink jersey, but that says more about Pogačar's prowess than anything.

When Thomas is ‘on it’ as he told GCN this week, he’s still a force to be reckoned with. The two unanswered questions revolve around how many ‘on it’ days he has in his locker and what can we realistically expect in a battle against Pogačar.

Read more: Geraint Thomas: Ineos Grenadiers remind me of the early Team Sky years

Thymen Arensman

Age: 24

Team Role: Super domestique

Analysis: It’s only January but Arensman’s trajectory over the coming weeks and months will be fascinating to watch. He was sixth on his Giro debut last year and logic dictates that with another year of experience under his belt he could have the legs to push into the top-five or even top-three this time around.

Ineos Grenadiers may head to the Giro with Thomas as their bonafide leader, but in Arensman they have an able deputy and one that could flourish on such a course. If Thomas remains on track, then he has a more than able ally in the mountains, and one that could survive into the final handful of riders when the race is really decided. There won’t be many better super domestiques in the race.

Read more: Giro d'Italia 2024: Five key stages that will decide the winner

Filippo Ganna

Age: 27

Team Role: Super domestique

Analysis: The Italian was Ineos’ only saving grace at last year’s Vuelta a España, with a stage win and several bunch sprint kicks that almost netted further success. This year’s Giro d’Italia, though, will likely see the 27-year-old nestle into a more familiar role with two winnable time trials peppered into the route, and plenty of stages in which Thomas will need back-up and support on the flat roads.

Read more: Giro d’Italia 2024 route revealed

Ganna will be a vital part of Ineos’ GC challenge and his potency will only become more important given the fact that Ineos will not be expected to determine the pace for much of the race. That’ll mean Ganna, in theory, can save his powder for those two time trials, and only use energy in aiding Thomas when it really matters. Keeping Ganna fresh for any potential ambush stages could be a factor in unlocking UAE Team Emirates.

Tobias Foss

Age: 26

Team role: Super domestique

Analysis: The former world time trial champion has yet to make his debut for the British team but according to our information, he’s already made the long list for the Giro d’Italia. His potential role would centre around support for Thomas in the mountains, and then possibly vying for the two time trials alongside Ganna. However, 2023 was a disappointing year for Foss, and he’s not really delivered in a major stage race since his surprising ninth place overall at the Giro d’Italia in 2021.

On paper, he has the quality to make the final eight-rider team but much will depend on how he settles into his new environment and whether he can kick-start his time at Ineos with a handful of promising performances.

Salvatore Puccio

Age: 34

Team role: Domestique

Analysis: The veteran hasn’t missed a Giro d’Italia since 2016 and can count 10 editions of the race on his palmarès. Never seen as a Tour de France starter by his long-term employers, Puccio has instead forged a career as a loyal and consistent performer in his home race, and he’ll very likely get the nod again this year and make it 11 Giros in a career that has spanned two decades.

When he finally does retire, likely at the end of 2025, we can fully expect him to make the seamless transition from pro rider to sports director in the blink of an eye. Just like his responsibilities at the Giro, he looks perfect for the role.

Read more: Vincenzo Nibali: The final week of the Giro d'Italia is the most feared

Elia Viviani

Age: 34

Team role: Domestique/sprinter

Analysis: Viviani hasn’t raced a Grand Tour since rejoining Ineos in 2022 but the Italian’s versatility has been on-point since then, and in many ways, he’s exceeded expectations since his terrible experience at Cofidis.

Heading into what could be his final season on the road, Viviani offers up a safe pair of hands as a solid domestique, while also creating a secondary outlet for success should Thomas falter at any stage. A Viviani-Ganna lead-out and sprint combo could be quite formidable once a barrage of sprinters flee the race.

The only doubt over his inclusion could be whether Ineos want to bring on one of their up-and-coming talents rather than share the opportunity with a veteran who might be close to retirement.

Magnus Sheffield

Age: 21

Team role: Domestique

Analysis: Still just 21, this is Sheffield’s third full season in the WorldTour ranks and he’s a highly touted Grand Tour prospect who could have conceivably made his debut over three weeks in 2023. That didn’t quite pan out for several reasons but the American has made this year’s Giro long list with Thomas confirming so during an interview with GCN on Wednesday.

He hasn’t raced in 2024 but the trajectory over the last few years speaks for itself and Sheffield could be a dark horse for the time trials and a vital bridge between the climbers and the rouleurs within the team. He’ll be at the Giro d’Italia to learn, first and foremost, but that’s a position in which Ben Tulett found himself back in 2022, and he excelled across some terrains. Tulett left the team 18 months later but the less said about that the better.

Read more: Ben Turner and Magnus Sheffield will win a Classic next year, says Josh Tarling

Ben Swift

Age: 36

Team role: Domestique

Analysis: Since re-joining Ineos at the start of 2020, Swift has reinvented himself as a solid domestique with better-than-average climbing legs. To be fair, that talent has always been there but it was eclipsed by his sprinting ambitions and a couple of lost years at UAE Team Emirates.

Now one of the elder statesmen on the team, Swift is dependable - he’s quit just two stage races in six years - efficient and well-respected within the squad. As with Viviani, the selection might come down to whether Ineos want another veteran domestique within the squad.

Ethan Hayter

Age: 25

Team role: Domestique

Analysis: It’s a contract year for Hayter, and with only one Grand Tour start under his belt, he’ll want to not only make the Giro selection but leave the race with a lasting impression. At 25 he still has several years ahead of him but consistency with crashes and health have plagued him in recent times.

When he’s on form, however, he’s a major threat for hilly stages and he can certainly slot into the role of a domestique if called upon. He’s won some fine races in his short but successful career but Grand Tours will remain a slight blindspot until he can make an Ineos squad and then go the distance.

If he can start the season strongly and avoid bad luck then he should get the nod over one of the veteran riders on this list. If he doesn't, then expect rival teams to start monitoring the situation.

Read more: Polti Kometa, Tudor Pro Cycling and Bardiani receive Giro d'Italia wildcards

Jhonatan Narváez

Age: 26

Team role: Domestique

Analysis: Another rider in a contract year, Narváez started the year with a bang thanks to an opportunistic win at the Down Under Classic. As with several riders on this list, the Ecuadorian is a versatile proposition, and he can dovetail medium mountains with a necessity to support his leader on less hillier affairs.

The form is clearly where it should be for the early season races, and Narváez won a stage back in 2020 when Ineos claimed the overall through Tao Geoghegan Hart. The only sticking point comes down to whether the team see him as a Grand Tour rider. He was left out of every three-week squad in 2023 and until he makes another such roster that question mark will remain.

For all the important information about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

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