Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal will be joint leaders of Team INEOS (formerly Team Sky) in the 2019 Tour de France, in what will be the Team’s first race at Le Tour under new ownership.
Jonathan Castroviejo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Gianni Moscon, Wout Poels, Luke Rowe and Dylan van Baarle complete the Team’s lineup for the 21-stage race, which starts in Brussels on Saturday.
Reigning Tour de France champion Thomas, who became the first-ever Welshman to win the race in 2018, will co-lead with Bernal, who heads into the race in winning form after his success at the recent Tour de Suisse.
Thomas is excited about returning to the Tour, commenting: “Winning the Tour de France last year was the highlight of my professional cycling career and racing with the number one on my back is going to be special this year. The memories of 2018 will remain with me forever, but now I’m ready to create more with the Team this year.
“It’s no secret my build-up has been affected by the crash at Tour de Suisse, but I’ve had a good block of training since and I feel ready. Discussing with the Team, we believe it makes sense to go into the race with joint leaders as it gives us more options. Egan and I will work hard for each other and the Team over the three weeks of the race.
“We’ve got a really exciting blend of youth and experience in the Team – and it’s a group of riders who I know will be with me every step of the way and know what it takes to win Grand Tours. I can’t wait to pull on the Team INEOS jersey for the first time at the Tour de France in what is the biggest race of the year.”
Bernal, meanwhile, is excited about competing in only his second Tour de France, having played a leading role in Thomas’ 2018 success.
“I have really good memories from the Tour last year,” he said. “It was my first Tour de France and also my first Grand Tour, so it was special. We enjoyed a great victory with G (Geraint Thomas) and it was something really special to be a part of. Of course, our ambition is to win the race again this year.
“Last year’s experience taught me a lot. As a bike rider, whatever you might think about the Tour from the outside you don’t really know it until you have raced it. Now I know what to expect, I can be more relaxed about what lies ahead and even more focused on the racing. The most important thing for my development is to enjoy racing over the next three weeks, give my best, and be happy with my performance. I am looking forward to sharing leadership responsibilities with G and doing everything we can together to help Team INEOS win its first Tour.”
This year’s Tour will feature 30 categorised climbs, five mountain-top finishes and only 54 kilometres of time trialling, split between one team time trial and one individual time trial.
The first week should see some great racing with the Team Time Trial on stage two and then the summit finish at La Planche des Belles Filles a few days later. There are then some punishing climbs through the Massif Central and into the Pyrenees before one of the longest summit finishes in Tour history at Val Thorens on the final Saturday before Paris.