Vuelta a Espana 2019: How are Team INEOS shaping up without star riders?

By Sports Desk August 23, 2019

For the second time this year, the dominant Team INEOS are heading into a Grand Tour without their three star riders.

Both Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas sat out the Giro d'Italia, while a broken collarbone saw Egan Bernal denied the opportunity to step up.

Seven-time Grand Tour winner Froome then left Thomas and Bernal in charge for the Tour de France as he missed out with fractures to his right femur, elbow and ribs sustained in training during the Criterium du Dauphine.

But after Bernal claimed his first title in the veteran's absence, the Colombian opted not to enter the Vuelta this year.

Thomas is likewise skipping the race, having finished second in Paris, and Froome is still recovering from his injuries, leaving INEOS light on star power once again.

So who will head the charge for cycling's outstanding outfit? We take a look at the team leaders and the rest of the line-up in Spain.

 

TAO GEOGHEGAN HART

This is a second big opportunity for Geoghegan Hart, who was one of those selected to lead the way for a youthful INEOS team at the Giro.

It was not a particularly successful outing for the team and a large part of that was due to Geoghegan Hart's crash on stage 13 that ruled him out of the race with a broken right clavicle. Co-leader Pavel Sivakov finished ninth in the general classification.

But the Briton – a strong all-rounder – is still just 24, is now 12 months on from his Grand Tour debut at last year's Vuelta, and has strong performances at the Tour of the Alps and Tour de Pologne under his belt.

As Froome and Thomas get on in age, it is time for Geoghegan Hart to stake a serious claim – or risk being left behind by a team that could soon belong to Bernal.

WOUT POELS

Where Geoghegan Hart is still raw, climber Poels provides real experience.

"The opportunity for Tao to learn from Wout as they lead our team is a special one and we have faith that both of them can leave their mark on this Vuelta," lead sport director Nicolas Portal said.

Poels has often played a supporting role in the bigger races during his INEOS career, but his best Grand Tour GC performance came at the Vuelta in 2017, a sixth-place finish. His only stage win at a Grand Tour was in Spain, too, with Vacansoleil in 2011.

The Dutchman has the talent to go on and challenge himself, as well as the experience to assist Geoghegan Hart, depending on how the race pans out for INEOS.

THE SUPPORTING CAST

INEOS hailed a contrast of youth and experience when they named the team and Owain Doull is the one Grand Tour debutant in the line-up, having played a role in four winning squads this year.

At the other end of the scale, the know-how comes in the form of Vasil Kiryienka, Salvatore Puccio and Ian Stannard. Kiryienka is 38 and making his 20th Grand Tour appearance, with the other two regulars in winning teams.

Sebastian Henao has taken on five Giros with relative success and will get a first Vuelta opportunity.

There was one last, late change to the team, meanwhile, as Kenny Elissonde – a former Vuelta stage winner – was replaced by David de la Cruz, who finished seventh in 2016 and 15th last year.

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