INEOS Adds a Joker
Decisions, decisions. By the hour, even by the minute, they range from the commonplace — “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?” (T.S. Eliot) — to the metaphysical — When does a good thing become too much of a good thing? (Team Ineos).
On the cusp of the new WorldTour season, Ineos can look to Louis Pasteur for guidance in answering that question. “Chance favours only the prepared mind,” decreed Pasteur, yellow jersey of the long-ago Milk Race, and, boy, did he get that right! Just look at how Ineos wound up with Rohan Dennis on its roster.
No explanation was given when the Australian jumped ship from Bahrain-Merida during the last Tour de France. One day he was there, awaiting his time-trial specialty, and then, poof, he was gone, climbing into a team car on stage 12, a day before the race against the clock.
“In the end, it just wasn’t good for me to be there,” Dennis tried to explain, according to a Cyclingnews account in December. “I was struggling mentally and in the end it was affecting home life. It was only going to get worse, so I just decided on what was best for my family.
“There were more things behind the scenes going on but it got to the point where…I wouldn’t go to the point of being absolutely depressed but if I didn’t pull out right there and then it would have probably turned bad.”
As opaque resignations go, this lacks only the standard line of wanting to spend more quality time with his family.
And then, hey, presto! Dennis was back. Now he was in the black and burgundy Ineos colours and revealing that talks with the British team had been going on for months, with few other takers. (Although Bahrain still had him under a two-year contract, it cut him free when Dennis won his second world time-trial championship on an unmarked bicycle.)
Ineos, the prepared mind, was favoured by chance.
Not that it matters to the Frackers with their budget far north of 30 million euros, but Dennis will be a bargain at a rumoured 250,000 euros, down from Bahrain’s 1 million annually. Also beside the immediate point, he will not be competing this year in the Ineos uniform for his two big goals, the Tokyo Olympics and the world championships, where he will represent Australia.
So is this simply a vanity signing by a team that agrees with the movies’ crooked financier Gordon Gecko that “Greed is good”? A team that includes three winners of the Tour in Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, all eager to repeat. Don’t overlook, please, another new recruit, Richard Carapaz, the Ecuadorian who won the 2019 Giro d’Italia for Movistar and who is 26 years old.
Ah, the Giro. Before the Ineos stars begin jostling for Tour leadership, they will learn who rides the Giro. Carapaz is an obvious choice, Thomas is leaning that way, and Froome is talking of a Giro-Tour double. So too is Bernal.
“I’m superexcited about the chance of riding the Giro,” he told the Spanish press last year. “I lived in Italy for two years” with minor teams “and have lots of friends there. I’m very open to riding the Giro. On the other hand, we must take into account the opinions of other riders.”
We all have to come up with an ideal plan that suits our careers.”
Bernal did not mention Dennis, who could be lured to the Giro by its three time trials. Somewhat forgotten in his palmares are his second place in last year’s Tour of Switzerland and his second place in the 2014 Tour of California. If not in the steepest mountains, he can climb.
Does he want to? As he approaches his 30th birthday, is Dennis prepping for a new phase as an all-around major contender? Does Ineos see him as an heir to Thomas and especially Froome?
Will the tempestuous Aussie be more trouble than he is worth?
Cover Photo: Chris Auld