Paris: Egan Bernal’s victory on Sunday marked a seventh Tour de France success in eight editions for the team once called Sky and now known as Ineos, highlighting the outfit’s clinical command of cycling’s biggest event.
Led by Briton Dave Brailsford their only failure to claim the yellow jersey on the Champs Elysees came with Vincenzo Nibali’s triumph for Astana in 2014.
Colombian Bernal bucks the trend for Ineos, who changed name and owner from Sky in May, after the outfit clinched the title with British cyclists Bradley Wiggins in 2012, Chris Froome on four occasions and Geraint Thomas last year.
This year Bernal has become the youngest Tour champion since Francois Faber in 1909.
Froome missed this year’s edition after a high-speed crash at June’s Criterium du Dauphine denying him a chance to claim a record-equalling fifth Grand Boucle.
Welshman Thomas took over as co-captain with Bernal and finished second to the youngster. “There’s more than one way to win the Tour de France,” Ineos principal Brailsford said.
“Are Ineos weaker than in the past? Maybe. But it doesn’t stop us from still being among the top five with two riders,” sporting director Nicolas Portal said.
“We were all confident in ourselves but we were under less pressure,” Frenchman Portal added.
Unlike in their past victories, Ineos had to wait to until the penultimate stage to take the yellow jersey as Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe wore the famous shirt for 14 stages.
“You have to know how to be patient,” Nicolas Portal said. “A lot of people asked questions,” Brailsford said.
“But in the end strategy paid off over chaos. Teamwork paid off over individualism.”
Bernal, 22, joined the outfit now backed by Britain’s richest man, Jim Ratcliffe, in 2018 and supported Froome and Thomas last July before being named joint-skipper three weeks ago.
Froome and Thomas are on the other side of their 30s and, apart from Bernal, 25-year-old Italian Gianni Moscon is the only member of the eight-man squad at the Tour below the age of 27.
“We knew we had a group of old guys who were good but we researched a lot into a new generation and we decided it would be Egan,” Brailsford said.
“We fought hard to get him and he’s developed in a fantastic way,” he added.
Ineos’ line-up is expected to change further with Giro d’Italia champion Ricardo Carapaz from Ecuador and Bernal’s promising compatriot 21-year-old Ivan Sosa expected to join.
As Brailsford’s gang of Britons evolves to become Bernal’s South American band of brothers, further yellow jerseys seem sure to follow.