The strongest team in the race? Ineos Grenadiers are finding their way again at the Giro d'Italia

The team's performance in the time trial is a signifier, once again, of their collective strength in this race

They had three riders in the top-five in the time trial on stage 14. They were lighting up the flat stage the day before in the crosswinds. In every sketchy moment, they have been at the front of the bike race, shepherding their GC leader, Geraint Thomas, to safety, day after day. Their leadout train has looked to be better drilled than the majority of the sprint teams in bunch kicks – and they haven’t even been trying to win. Jhonatan Narváez has been in the form of his life, taking the stage victory and maglia rosa on day one. With their performances so far in this race, Ineos Grenadiers are firmly asserting their position as the strongest team in the Giro d’Italia.

It’s certainly a change in narrative for the British team who have been criticised for their showing over the last few months. The Classics period was barren in terms of results for the Grenadiers, with Tom Pidcock’s Amstel Gold Race victory the standout highlight in an otherwise quiet few months. Once stage racing season kicked off, Carlos Rodríguez secured the team’s second and third WorldTour wins of the year with stage victories in the Tour de Romandie and Itzulia Basque Country – an impressive campaign from the young Spaniard, but Ineos still were, overall, performing subpar for an outfit with their level of budget.

Excuses can be made for the team’s apparent lack of direction in this period, with constant changes in staff perhaps leading to unrest within the organisation. Dave Brailsford resigned as Ineos Grenadiers team principal in light of Sir Jim Ratcliffe purchasing a minority stake in Manchester United, and now places his focus on football rather than cycling. Rod Ellingworth subsequently resigned from his position as Deputy Team Principal and left the team at the end of 2023. Ellingworth had an instrumental role in the Tour de France wins for Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, and riders were vocal about the impact his departure would have on the squad.

Now, mid-way through the 2024 season, things seem to be getting somewhat back on track for the Ineos Grenadiers. Despite the drama surrounding their team personnel, it appears that the riders themselves have remained focusing on training hard – at least, that’s what their performances in this year’s Giro d’Italia have shown so far. The likes of Ben Swift, Thymen Arensman, Magnus Sheffield and Filippo Ganna have proven themselves to be in superb form, something that has been an asset to Thomas as he fights for another spot on the Giro d’Italia podium.

The challenge that remains, however, is how to convert this collective strength into victories. There is one man who stands in the way of an Ineos win overall in la corsa rosa, and that’s a flying Tadej Pogačar. Even without the strongest team around him, the UAE Team Emirates rider is still running rings around his competition, going into the Italian Alps with a lead of almost four minutes on Thomas. For the Welshman to get that time back seems like a tall order, even if there are still two weeks of racing to go. 

Regardless of what eventually happens in the Giro, however, Ineos will be able to take some serious confidence from this race. Across the board, their riders have been exhibiting their talent, not just physically but also from a tactical perspective. They haven’t been afraid to try things, and have also shown exemplary levels of professionalism and organisation whenever it has been asked of them. If Pogačar does show even a hint of weakness during the rest of the race, you can be certain that Ineos will be ready to capitalise on it, well-drilled and astute.

Looking further ahead for the British team, they already have a near perfect Grand Tour team ready to support a GC leader. With Thomas close to retirement, it’s going to be up to the likes of Carlos Rodriguez or Tom Pidcock to pick up the mantle and try to challenge superstars like Pogačar in stage races to come. If they can’t, the Ineos Grenadiers may have to dig into their pockets and sign some fresh talent – whether that be another GC man or even a strong sprinter to up the team’s win rate. There is serious potential within the Ineos ranks at the moment, and now it’s just about working out the best way to make use of it.

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