Two is Better. The old saying is booming at the Tour de France. Five teams compete with co-captains for the overall standings: Ineos, Movistar, Education First, Jumbo-Visma and Bora hansgrohe. This is a change in mentality, as was the rule in cycling for many years: There can only be one captain, for all the other then drive. “It's always better to have two irons in the fire. Should one fall or have a bad day, there is still one in front, “says for example Emanuel Buchmann, one of the captains of Bora hansgrohe.
That's the way Patrick Konrad sees it. Both feel not as enemies, but as partners. “We are racers, we want to win. But we also know that we need support. And that's why you drive for the other one, “says Konrad. “But you also know that everything will come back.” If you believe him, then Bora hansgrohe comes very close to the ideal situation of collective cohesion. “Band of Brothers”, brothers band, has chosen the team as a motto. Currently Buchmann is in the overall ranking the better placed brother. He was one of the favorites on the Belles Filles planche, finishing just seven seconds behind defending champion Geraint Thomas, 33 seconds behind the Welshman.
Konrad, on the other hand, lost a minute to Buchmann on the climb. But Bora does not want to move away from the co-captain strategy. “The gap also opens up tactical opportunities for the second week,” says sports director Enrico Poitschke. Konrad may be left out in an attack because he has a bigger backlog. The co-captain game means attacking with one man, driving conservatively with the other.
This is also the mode at Movistar. On the sixth stage you could already see how world champion Alejandro Valverde spent himself as a pacemaker, preparing for the start of his teammate Mikel Landa. Landa was then recaptured, but Movistar's strategy – Valverde prepares, Landa attacks and co-captain Nairo Quintana waits for what the competition will do – is expected to recur in the Pyrenees and the Alps. Maybe the roles will vary as well. In any case, Movistar must drive aggressively, because in the team time trial, the team already lost 45 seconds on Ineos. Currently Quintana is 52 seconds behind Thomas, Landa even 54 seconds.
The Sky successor team also has a double top. It interprets this game differently. “Our goal is to always arrive as a closed block,” said team boss Dave Brailsford. This does not mean that the block can not crack. In the final of the third stage, for example, Geraint Thomas gaped a gap, team-mate Egan Bernal came five seconds ahead of him to the finish. On the sixth stage then Thomas broke from the field of favorites. He brought out nine seconds – and made it clear that he is the co-boss with the bigger claims. However, Thomas emphasizes again and again that he sees no rival in Bernal.
The concept with two Leitwölfen also carries risks
It will be exciting how Ineos further organizes the relationship. Team boss Brailsford already pointed to the risks of two Leitwölfe: “It must always be clear who is working for, not only for the leaders themselves, but also for the entire team. Everyone needs to know when to wait for who. “
The dual leadership opens up more opportunities for the teams, but it also requires clear communication. In earlier leadership conflicts, Brailsford always bought the second man's loyalty with the promise that he would be driven next year. It was like that in 2012 with Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, and also in 2018 when the flagging Froome was persuaded to work entirely for Thomas.
At present, Brailsford does not yet have to proclaim this strategy. Thomas and Bernal are on the same level and are in the ranking in front of most opponents. George Bennett, one of the co-chiefs at Jumbo-Visma, is ahead of the Ineos duo thanks to the team time trial. And Thibaut Pinot, thanks to his brave attack on Saturday on the eighth stage, also just ahead of Thomas and Bernal.