Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas have both been left out of Team Ineos’ Tour de France line-up as Sir Dave Brailsford signals a changing of the guard within the team.
Defending champion Egan Bernal will line up with the support of 2019 Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz, but four-time winner Froome will instead go to the Vuelta a Espana, while 2018 Tour winner Thomas looks to the Giro d’Italia.
This year’s Tour, delayed to start on August 29, was Froome’s final opportunity to secure a record-equalling fifth Tour title before he leaves Ineos to join the Israel Start-Up Nation squad next year.
Froome had made the Tour his number one target as he has spent more than a year rehabilitating from the career-threatening injuries suffered in a crash at the Criterium du Dauphine last year.
But, even though he has returned to racing and competed alongside Thomas and Bernal at this year’s Dauphine last week, his 71st place overall did little to convince anyone that he was ready for the challenge of the Tour.
Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: “Chris is a legend of our sport, a true champion who has demonstrated incredible grit and determination to come back from his crash last year.
“We want to support him to compete for another Grand Tour title and the Vuelta gives him that little bit more time to continue his progress to the top level.”
Brailsford is well known for showing little sentiment in his team selections, and the absence of the 34-year-old Thomas as well as Froome suggests he is looking to Bernal, Carapaz, and the emerging Pavel Sivakov as the future of his team.
“Egan will once again target the yellow jersey in France and we are very excited to give last year’s Giro winner, Richard Carapaz, his debut in this year’s Tour also,” he added.
“Geraint will target the Giro and take on the opportunity to double up his Tour de France win with another Grand Tour title, with the aim of being the first Welshman to win it.”
Thomas is delighted to have a plan in place and is hoping to erase the memories of his last brush with the Giro.
He said: “It feels like it’s back to some sort of normality with the team and racing and everything and it’s nice to finally just have a firm plan in place and know exactly what I’m doing, and try to get some sort of positive out of this year.
“In 2017, I was in great shape, in similar form to what I was in ’18 when I won the Tour. The Giro ended badly that year with a crash and it’s something I’ve always wanted to go back to.
“I enjoy the racing there. I have always loved Italy, the roads and the fans and the food, obviously. It’s just a race I’ve always enjoyed anyway, a country where I love to race, so I’m certainly looking forward to going back.
“That’s the plan now.”
Froome, who broke his neck, femur, elbow, hip and ribs while preparing for last year’s Tour, admitted he was simply not ready for the gruelling test this time around.
He said: “There’s definitely a re-adjustment for me, moving the goalposts from the Tour de France to the Vuelta a Espana, but given where I’ve come from through the last year…I’ve had an incredible recovery from the big crash I had last year and I’m in a very fortunate position to be back racing now already, but I’m not confident that I can really fulfil the necessary job that would be needed from me at this year’s Tour de France.
“I think it’s a lot more realistic targeting the Vuelta a Espana. It gives me a chance to really get stuck into something that’s deliverable.”