Pidcock, Rodríguez and Bernal for the Tour de France as Geraint Thomas' Giro d’Italia plans remain unconfirmed

As Dave Brailsford brings marginal gains to Manchester United, the Ineos Grenadiers team hope to close the gap to their Grand Tour rivals

Clock17:30, Saturday 6th January 2024
Pidcock, Rodríguez and Bernal could be returning to the Tour de France in 2024

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Pidcock, Rodríguez and Bernal could be returning to the Tour de France in 2024

It might only be the first week of January but Ineos Grenadiers’ Grand Tour plans remain unclear with only scattered snippets of information within the European press.

Any discernible information at present has come courtesy of the riders themselves, who have made public statements in between leaking kit shots and unreleased helmets. The situation is a stark contrast to the likes of Visa-Lease a Bike and UAE Team Emirates, who have both rubber-stamped the majority of the race programmes for their respective team leaders.
Jonas Vingegaard will look to defend his Tour de France title, Tadej Pogačar will try and emulate Marco Pantani by winning the Giro-Tour double, while Primož Roglič and Remco Evenepoel will sideline the Giro to completely focus on July.

With regards to Ineos Grenadiers, what we do know is that Tom Pidcock, and his coach, have identified the Tour de France as the rider’s main stage racing ambition in 2024, and that the all-rounder will also focus on the Olympic Games and the Ardennes Classics. However, the rest of the squad’s schedules remain unclear at this moment in time.

Part of the reason for the lack of communication from the senior management is that there have been so many changes over the winter. Deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth left the squad just a matter of weeks ago, and several other senior staff have also departed in recent times.

The new head of performance, Scott Drawer, hasn’t officially started with the team, and isn’t listed on the site, and John Allert - the new CEO - is presumably still getting comfortable in his new role having taken on more responsibility following the departure of Ellingworth.

Meanwhile, team principal Dave Brailsford has been focused on the mammoth challenge of bringing stability to Jim Ratcliffe’s latest pet project, Manchester United. Such a task cannot be underestimated, and the key question facing the cycling team at present is how they cope with the absence of a figure who was so instrumental in their past. 

Towards the end of 2023, it briefly looked as though Brailsford would take more control of the cycling operation, an idea welcomed by riders such as Thomas, but with Ratcliffe investing £1.3 billion ($1.6bn) in United, the chances of Brailsford spending more time on the WorldTour squad appear to have been dramatically reduced.

Tour de France team slowly takes shape

According to Ineos Grenadiers, their official plans for the year ahead will be announced by the end of this month but the riders and their respective coaches have at least gone to work on the blank canvases handed to them.

The team’s overall focus remains on Grand Tour success and Pidcock isn’t the only rider with top-five aspirations at the Tour de France. Carlos Rodríguez is also set for a spot on the eight-man roster. The 22-year-old was fifth last year on debut and won a fine stage before a crash in the final week severely dented his podium prospects. On paper, he looks like Ineos Grenadiers’ most likely candidate to challenge for a top-three but at this point in time, he sits some way back from the likes of Vingegaard, Pogačar, Evenepoel and Roglič, who all have genuine maillot jaune claims.

GCN understands that Egan Bernal, a former winner of the Tour de France back in 2019, is set to return to the race for a second year running but his role looks destined to revolve around super domestique duties, with a ride at the Vuelta a España later in the year also on the cards.

But what of Geraint Thomas, the last Ineos rider to stand on the Tour de France podium back in 2022? The Welshman, 37, has kept his cards close to his chest this off-season but before the turn of the year, he hinted to GCN that he could attempt both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.

This still looks like a possible scenario, with one source informing GCN that the veteran rider looks most likely to focus on Giro d’Italia in the first half of the season. A Tour ride could follow on from a Giro outing but any final decision on that is unlikely to be made until June, and once any possible Giro bid has been completed.

In terms of support riders, details are slightly sketchy but Ethan Hayter looks set to race a Grand Tour in 2024 after a year-long absence from three-week races. The 25-year-old is unlikely to be at the Tour but a slot at either the Giro or the Vuelta is possible.

Filippo Ganna has already indicated his desire to race the Giro d’Italia in preparation for the Olympic Games this summer, and any Ineos team for the Giro wouldn’t be complete without Salvatore Puccio on the startline. The veteran has started all but one Giro since joining the team in 2013.

Josh Tarling looks set to skip Grand Tours altogether and instead build up his palmares in time trials, with a possible outing on the track at the Olympics. GCN understands that Tobias Foss’ Grand Tour plans have yet to be finalised but Magnus Sheffield will almost surely race a Grand Tour for the first time in his career.

Come the end of January a much clearer outline of the team's plans will emerge. There is still much to be excited about for a team brimming with youthful talent and versatile veterans, even if the expectations are slightly lower these days.

However, discussions over transitions and the direction of the team will continue until a clear blueprint for the squad's future has been properly unveiled.

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