Chris Froome has been confirmed in Ineos’s line-up for this week’s Critérium du Dauphiné as speculation intensifies regarding his Tour de France selection.
An Ineos team containing last year’s Tour winner Egan Bernal, as well as the two previous Tour winners Geraint Thomas and Froome, found themselves well beaten by rivals Jumbo-Visma at last week’s Tour de l’Ain.
Froome and Thomas, both working as domestiques, showed glimpses of form, Froome in particular with a fierce turn on the Grand Colombier. But they dropped well back after doing their work, prompting some to suggest they are not ready for the Tour.
Bernal called for calm afterwards. “Some other big riders from other teams were also dropped early today,” he insisted. “That doesn't mean that they won't be up there in the GC (general classification) at the Tour de France. We need to be calm and to know that we're just here to train.”
That has not stopped L’Equipe from speculating about Froome’s place in Ineos’ line-up for the Tour, where he hopes to be vying for a record-equalling fifth win. The French sports daily claims Ineos has already chosen seven of their eight riders, with Bernal to be joined by Pavel Sivakov, Thomas, Jonathan Castroviejo, Dylan van Baarle, Michal Kwiatkowski and Tao Geoghegan Hart.
If true, it would leave Froome — who is joining Israel Start-Up Nation at the end of the year — fighting with the likes of Luke Rowe, Ineos’ road captain in recent years, for the final spot.
Ineos say they have yet to decide, with the Critérium du Dauphiné likely to make up their minds. Ineos will have all three of their Tour winners — Froome, Thomas and Bernal — in their line-up, plus Sivakov, Castroviejo, Van Baarle and Kwiatkowski. The race has been reduced from its usual eight stages to just five. It starts on Wednesday and finishes on Sunday.
Former team-mate and Tour winner Sir Bradley Wiggins said it was not too late for Froome, who is returning from last year’s life-threatening accident at the Dauphiné, to make Ineos’ Tour squad.
"Bearing in mind we’re three weeks away from the Tour now, the business end of the Tour is five weeks away so you don’t want to be backing off yet," Wiggins said in his Eurosport podcast on Monday. "There’s still time to get improvements and Froome will improve with every race he does because of where he’s coming from which was basically in intensive care at one point.”
Wiggins, meanwhile, called for the introduction of sprint lanes at the end of stages following the horrific crash at last week's Tour of Poland that led to Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick Step])being placed into an induced coma.
“For the protection of the sport I instantly thought of a 100-metre race in athletics and the lanes,” Wiggins said. “Lots of sprinters sprint with their head down looking five metres ahead and are constantly aware of riders coming up and sometimes you can tend to drift when you’re just looking that way and naturally drift slightly as Groenewegen did.”