The Froome problem: Four-time Tour de France winner or Geraint Thomas - who gets dropped if Ineos say three leaders too many?

Tom Cary
The Telegraph
Chris Froome sits on his bike - JEFF GILBERT
Chris Froome sits on his bike - JEFF GILBERT

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Chris Froome’s mooted midseason switch to Israel Start-Up Nation is not happening, with the only question now whether the 35 year-old will race in this year's Tour de France for Team Ineos.

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Froome is desperate to win what would be a record-equalling fifth title in September and is adamant that he is physically capable of doing so following a career-threatening crash 12 months ago. 

However, with Ineos also having Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas - the last two winners of the Tour - in their ranks, the British team have three potential leaders. 

That was one of the reasons that Froome, who is in the final year of his contract, was so heavily linked with a mid-season switch, with Israel understood to have tabled a lucrative three-year offer for the seven-time grand tour winner.

Any move would need to have been sanctioned by Ineos principal Sir Dave Brailsford, however, and sources have suggested to The Telegraph that Brailsford would rather leave Froome out of his Tour lineup, if he felt three leaders was going to be a problem, than allow him go to a rival team where he could potentially hurt Ineos’ chances of winning the race.

It remains to be seen who Ineos select for the Tour. Brailsford was extremely positive about Froome’s chances in an interview with The Telegraph in April, saying he felt the coronavirus delay really played into the British rider's hands. 

However, with no contract extension on the table from Ineos, and with Froome now looking almost certain to leave the team in 2021, and openly casting about, it remains to be seen how their relationship might have been affected.

Bernal, the reigning champion and rising star, is certain to ride, meaning either Froome or Thomas will have to drop out and potentially refocus on a different grand tour if Team Ineos decide three leaders is too many.

Egan Bernal (left) and Geraint Thomas (right) embrace - REUTERS
Egan Bernal (left) and Geraint Thomas (right) embrace - REUTERS

Ineos sporting director Servais Knaven told The Telegraph last week that a final decision was still some way off with the rescheduled race not due to start until August 29.

“For now they’re all on the list and they’re all up for it,” Knaven said. “It [having three leaders] could make it difficult but we’ve always been a proper team. The most important thing is that Ineos win the Tour. 

"It can also be an advantage to have three leaders. It gives you tactical options. We are confident we can make it work. But we have to work as a team.

“I think it’s a good thing to have three riders who have won the Tour before, as opposed to three riders who have never won the Tour before.”

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