Ineos Grenadiers have had few races to choose from so far this season, but they will be making their debut at Étoile de Bessèges in France and they have announced an extremely strong team for it.
Not only that, but current world time trial champion Filippo Ganna is down to race and could definitely be in with a shot at the overall title himself with a largely flat parcours before a difficult individual time trial that includes a short climb, ideal for Ganna.
Another possible leader depending on how they race is former road race champion, Michał Kwiatkowski, who will hope to be up there on all the stages. He probably suits the race as a whole better than the other leaders with good climbing legs, a sharp kick and very good time trialling ability.
Ineos also have some potential on the sprint days, which should be most of the stages, with young British sprinter Ethan Hayter and an ideal lead-out man in Welshman Owain Doull in there too.
Plus the usual workhorse that is Italian veteran Salvatore Puccio, who is likely to sit on the front of the peloton all day with the other race favourite’s teams or spend his time looking after their main men and keeping them well placed.
The announcement of Bernal being down to make his debut at Étoile de Bessèges was a pretty late one as he was originally going to start his season in Spain at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, which has been postponed.
So, the 2019 Tour victor has decided that he will start up his season in the Gard départment instead before heading to Provence for the Tour de la Provence.
It won’t be plain sailing for Ineos though as they face a plethora of talent who have flocked to the race for the same reasons as Bernal.
Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën), Trek-Segafredo duo of Vincenzo Nibali and Bauke Mollema, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Nippo) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) to name just a few all down to be on the start line on Wednesday February 3, 2021.
Ineos Grenadiers squad for Étoile de Bessèges 2021
Egan Bernal (Col)
Geraint Thomas (GBr)
Ethan Hayter (GBr)
Owain Doull (GBr)
Filippo Ganna (Ita)
Michał Kwiatkowski (Pol)
Salvatore Puccio (Ita)