The Australian-registered squad is celebrating its most emphatic Tour to date, with Matteo Trentin entering the winner’s circle on Stage 17 that saw Ineos and Jumbo-Visma hit with the disqualification of Luke Rowe and Tony Martin, respectively.
The triumphs of Trentin, Daryl Impey and Vuelta a España champion Simon Yates, who has two wins on the board, came after designated leader and Tour title hopeful Adam Yates fell out of overall contention in the Pyrenees.
Mitchelton-Scott’s team selection was such that it was able to respond to the setback and turn it around with four compelling victories from breakaways. The next three eyewatering Alpine stages may also serve as a happy hunting ground to its climbers.
Sports director Julian Dean, at the outset of the race, had celebrated the diversity of his squad when asked to contrast their Tour team selection to that of the Ineos empire.
Both teams commenced in Belgium with yellow jersey aspirations but opted for two very different approaches. Mitchelton-Scott selected a mixture of old, new and still afforded Impey and Trentin available chances. Ineos with the notable exception of injured, four-time race winner Chris Froome – otherwise fielded the same squad that helped propel defending champion Geraint Thomas to victory in Paris last year.
“Resource wise they’re better off than what we are, so we don’t really have those sorts of options,” said Dean.
“But I think it’s good to have diversity in a team, to be able to have different riders that can step in. That’s how we’ve moulded our team as much as we can in the past and I think we will continue to do so.
“In the future we could try and add a bit more depth to the squad, so we maybe don’t have to double up on Grand Tours. But we just sort of manage what we’ve got at the moment the best way we can.”
As the Tour ventures into the Alps, Ineos may be forced to diverge from its proven ‘all or nothing’ playbook. The British powerhouse cares about winning the war for the yellow jersey, at the sacrifice of claiming stage win battles.
It’s worked for the better part of a decade, however, the revival of the French, as well as the disqualification of road captain Rowe, may require team principal David Brailsford to configure something new.
Ineos has benefited from the familiarity its team here have with each other.
“I think it’s always an advantage because they know each other, they rode together last year and won the Tour with this group,” said sports director Servais Knaven.
“They know exactly their roles, their jobs. It’s really important that they all commit to their jobs.”
That can arguably have limitations too though. Rowe is an important engine. Brailsford and the sports directors now have to find a way to delegate that horsepower to the other men on the team – across the Alps where the most open Tour in years will be decided.
In the past, the squad has not always responded well when a piece of its dialled train has gone missing. When Froome abandoned the 2014 Tour through injury, it was not a simple case of everyone else in the team moving up one rung to the same end.
Although unlike then, the squad this season has entered the Tour with two declared leaders in Thomas and Egan Bernal.
Jumbo-Visma stands at a crossroad between the two. The Dutch squad is on equal stage victories with Mitchelton-Scott but still has Steven Kruijswijk in the mix for overall. Like Ineos, it had power in numbers across the Pyrenees but is also now down a diesel in Martin.
Meanwhile, Mitchelton-Scott, with four battle victories in the bag, can exploit as they like.