The 2021 season marks a turning point in the history of Ineos Grenadiers.
Following the departure of their talisman rider Chris Froome at the end of 2020, the British WorldTour squad seem to have shaken up their racing philosophy as team principal Sir Dave Brailsford says he wants his riders to race more on instinct.
With four-time Tour de France winner Froome now racing for Israel Start-Up Nation, Ineos will be looking to its four other Grand Tour winners in future races, as the team currently boasts Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, Richard Carapaz and Tao Geoghegan Hart among its roster.
Brailsford has just announced its Grand Tour leadership plans for 2021, with Bernal in the Giro d’Italia, Thomas at the Tour and new signing Adam Yates in the Vuelta a España, but there is another major question mark over the team this season – Geraint Thomas’s future with the squad.
The 34-year-old Welshman, winner of the 2018 Tour de France, will reach the end of his current contract at the end of 2021, but will Thomas stick with Ineos.
As reported by the Daily Mail, Brailsford is keen to keep Thomas beyond 2021 and potentially to the end of his career.
Brailsford said: “We’re in discussions. For someone like Geraint who has been with us since the start, he’s a very important rider to us, very influential in the group and a great role model.
“He’s somebody we’d certainly like to end his career with us, whenever that may be.”
Thomas has been with Ineos since the team’s inception in 2010, then Sky Procycling, taking victories in the Tour, the Critérium du Dauphiné, Paris-nice and E3 Harelbeke amongst others.
He last signed a new contract in 2018 after his Tour de France victory, extending his time with Ineos by another three years and saying he was part of “one big happy family.”
Thomas has also been determined to fight for Grand Tour leadership, challenging younger riders like Bernal and Carapaz, but suffered a blow when he was left out of the 2020 Tour de France squad after struggling to find form.
Over the years a number of riders have left the rigid hierarchy of Ineos in pursuit if their own general classification ambitions, including Mikkel Landa, Wout Poels and Richie Porte.
But no rider has ever won a Grand Tour after leaving Ineos, with Richie Porte coming closest with his third-place finish in the 2020 Tour de France, shortly before he re-joined Ineos as a domestique in 2021.