How many Ineos Grenadiers have sat on Ineos Grenadiers?

One of the funniest tropes in sports sponsorship, examined.

Photo: Ineos Grenadiers website (the car or the team, I can’t remember now because my brain has turned to paté).

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 19.05.2023 Photography by
Ineos Grenadiers
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Ineos Grenadiers have just released a fresh batch of photos of Ineos Grenadiers sitting on an Ineos Grenadier, which is a sentence so circular that it should be utterly nonsensical but, alas, is not.

Let me break it down a bit.

You probably know the cycling team called the Ineos Grenadiers. The riders thereof are each, separately, a unit of Ineos Grenadier. The team is called the Ineos Grenadiers because the team sponsor/owner, Ineos – a chemical company with a fracking great reputation – decided to diversify into automobiles, a side-hustle born from the fact that billionaire owner Jim Ratcliffe loves Land Rover Defenders so much he tried to buy the rights to the model, got denied, then just went ahead and decided to copy it anyway … which he got away with (!) because Land Rover forgot to trademark it (!!). Ratcliffe called his derivative car the Ineos Grenadier, because his favourite pub in London – which he likes so much he bought it – is called the Grenadier.

Also, he is pro-Brexit to the point that he made a big fuss about the Grenadier being made in England, before spectacularly backflipping; now it’s made in France. And then, just after being given a knighthood for services to the motherland, he moved to Monaco for tax breaks.

You with me so far? Good.

In August 2020, the cycling team – then called Ineos, previously known as Team Sky – rebranded to support the launch of the chronically delayed Ineos Grenadier (they’re trickling out now, three years later). Immediately, one of the funniest photographic tropes in cycling was sparked: cyclists sitting on a big British (but not really) 4WD. An Escher of sports marketing – Ineos Grenadiers on Ineos Grenadiers.

Linguistically, it’s extremely funny. Visually, it’s magnificent. With the release yesterday of a new Grenadier² photo, though, it got me wondering: exactly how many Ineos Grenadiers have sat on Ineos Grenadiers?

After a careful comb through assorted Instagram pages, I think I have an answer.

First up, we have the sole female Ineos Grenadier, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, with yesterday’s offering. I like the self-awareness in the caption, and the lack of variety from one shot to the next. You find a winning formula, you stick to it:

Now we have Cam Wurf – part-time triathlete, part-time Big Engine On The Road – climbing ladders in Capetown. Oh, did I not mention the unsuitability of this vehicle for carrying bikes on the roof? It’d be such a pain in the arse! Anyway, here’s Wurf living his best life:

Earlier this year, reigning Australian road champion Luke Plapp was in Adelaide ahead of the Tour Down Under, where he stopped by the Star of Greece (an absolute banger of a restaurant) in Port Willunga.

Note the clunky banter between Ineos Grenadiers and the Ineos Grenadier Instagram profiles (“the view from up there ?” is @danielkaliszphotographer, standing in a carpark, which is surely something @ineos_grenadier could’ve figured out for itself with Google Maps. Come on folks, where’s the ingenuity?!):

But wait, there’s more … because the whole bloody gang’s there!

Now we have the first line-ball of this Grenadier² mega-gallery. Birthday Boy Pavel Sivakov is in the vicinity of an Ineos Grenadier, this is undeniable – but under the imaginary rules of this stupid game we’re playing, is he actually on, in, or touching the vehicle? Maybe there’s enough of a backward lean for contact. Maybe not. Half a point:

Much more clear-cut is this outstanding specimen of the form. Post Egan Bernal’s Giro win, we have seven Ineos Grenadiers of a possible eight (Sivakov crashed into a tree and out of the race on stage 5) on top of the car.

Also, they made it pink (the Grenadier, not the Grenadiers, although some of them are a bit pink too):

This particular photoset taunts and teases you until the last slide, and then, bam, there it is. Gianni Moscon with the ladder grab:

Another tricky one. I can’t with absolute certainty say that we have any Ineos Grenadiers in contact with an Ineos Grenadier, but – at risk of being a total pushover – I dare to dream that one of Dani Martinez’s buttocks is in play, and perhaps even a Moscon elbow. Half a point combined (if you’ll allow it):

We’re on much steadier ground prior to the 2021 Tour of Flanders. An undisputed five Ineos Grenadiers on this Ineos Grenadier:

As one of the world’s leading scholars of this phenomenon, I am happy to tell you that up next, there’s a real treat in store. A Grenadier matryoshka doll, of sorts.

Presenting two Ineos Grenadiers – Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe – (allegedly) recording an episode of their Watts Occuring podcast from inside an Ineos Grenadier. Mindblowing work:

Filippo Ganna is the fastest human in the world riding over an hour. His speed clambering up onto the roof of an Ineos Grenadier in the immediate aftermath of that record is not known, but there he is, up there:

As a proportion of the total number of people in the shot, this has a shockingly low Grenadier² count. But there is someone on a Grenadier, even if I can’t actually tell who it is, so I’m claiming it:

It’s much easier to identify Tao Geoghegan Hart, who in this photo has just won a Giro d’Italia. He is the one in pink. On the roof. With the big golden trophy:

We again enter some murky waters here. Filippo Ganna is not in contact with this Ineos Grenadier. By all appearances, he is milliseconds into his journey out of it, victoriously punching the air and/or his crotch as he does so. Half a point, by pure happenstance of timing:

And so we find ourself at a 2020 Giro d’Italia rest day – the happy hunting ground of the Grenadier² photoshoot. Four on a roof, two on the bonnet. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done:

Metaphysically speaking, we have the aura of a Pavel Sivakov whooshing past here for a quarter point.

Also, how embarrassing would it be to drive this car along the Tour route, reverse it up a random logging track, set up a photographer to take a picture of the car and not Sivakov in pursuit of a stage win, all for #content that will be slated in the Instagram comments? Very embarrassing, that’s what:

Love everything about this one. A full complement of eight (8) riders at the 2020 Tour de France – a more carefree time where Richard Carapaz could stomp his cleats all over the bonnet of a prototype Grenadier. Lovely work:

The same eight riders earlier in the same Tour, but a little bit more ‘school rugby team photo’ so not as charming:

I can’t place the following series of photos in the Ineos Grenadier release timeline. The date says August 2020 – the eve of a COVID-delayed Tour – but Chris Froome’s there, and he didn’t get a start that year.

What I am less uncertain about is how funny the caption is. Their “first impressions” are, in order:

I’m no expert on body language, but I think the boys bloody love it. Two points for visible contact (click through for full set):

You know I hate to throw a video in the mix, but it has a brief glimpse of Chris Froome slamming the boot, so in the interests of full and complete transparency, you are obliged to accept this offering:

And then, to close it out, there are a smattering of photos – date unknown – I found from either Ineos Grenadiers dot com or Ineos Grenadier dot com, URLs that are so similar that Google Chrome warned me that one might be maliciously masquerading as the other. I like this one of a heavily obscured Michal Kwiatkowski, wondering what in the world he’s doing up there:

And this one, where he’s found a friend to join him on the bumper:

And one last one for good measure, from early in the Ineos Grenadier sponsorship. Also, Luke Rowe’s languorously lounging pose is Very Good:

The final tally

First, some caveats: this season is young, and this sponsorship is indefinite. It’s also worth pointing out that, clearly, this is seen as a winning formula for Ineos’ photographers. The (extremely high) number I’m about to give you can therefore only go up.

By my count, though, we are looking here at 59.75 Ineos Grenadiers on Ineos Grenadiers – well over a one-a-month strike rate over the course of the sponsorship, and not including the very many videos and photos of Ineos Grenadiers riders near (but not in direct contact with) Ineos Grenadiers. That is a lot of Ineos Grenadiers, no matter which way you slice it.

How would I like to see this phenomenon develop? Great question. Almost three years in, I think there’s room for a greater sense of innovation and play.

We’ve seen Ineos Grenadiers on an Ineos Grenadier. I’d like to stack some Ineos Grenadiers: a Pidcock on the lap of a Ganna on the roof of a 4WD, for a Grenadier on a Grenadier on a Grenadier. In fact, why stop there? Why not lob multiple cars on top of each other? Why not choreograph the team like a little circus troupe, a pyramid of Ineos Grenadiers on top of Ineos Grenadiers with the smallest Ineos Grenadier at the top, arms aloft in triumph, content in the knowledge that they have come together to produce the funniest possible sports sponsorship thing?

Over to you, Jim Ratcliffe.

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