(AFP) – Team Sky dominated last year’s Tour de France with Geraint Thomas winning the title and Chris Froome finishing third, but have since rebranded as Team Ineos.
The team now backed by Britain’s richest man, Jim Ratcliffe, has seven of last year’s outfit racing this time out but four-time champion Froome is missing after a high-speed crash in June’s Criterium du Dauphine.
“They (Ineos) are strong. How they handled the pressure yesterday, I cannot see any team handling that kind of fall that well. They are the strongest team here, but they haven’t had to prove it yet. If they have more kilos (power) or less, we don’t know.”
— Andy Schleck (2010 Tour de France champion)
“No, at least they haven’t shown it yet. The fall Chris Froome had must have shaken everyone up a bit. But they are very strong, any other team would have lost time with a fall like that (Thomas on stage eight).”
— Sandy Casar (three Tour de France stage wins, 2008-2010)
“Obviously Froome’s a big loss. But if you look at how they handled Saturday’s crash, it was impressive. Maybe that will stand them well for the Tour.
“Changing sponsor hasn’t changed the team, and losing Froome hasn’t crippled them. Egan Bernal looks strong, maybe he’s being pushed a bit as the man, certainly by the media, but he’s working hard and doing a good job.”
— Neil McIlroy (Team manager at French rugby club Clermont)
“Yes they are just as strong. Thomas is well-placed to win his second Tour. Don’t forget the time-trial coming up where he has a certain advantage over his key adversaries. At La Planche des Belles Filles he proved he had the legs with his attack, and every time he got unlucky he showed how strong he was.”
— Raymond Poulidor (three-time Tour de France runner-up, 1964, 1965 and 1974)