Chris Froome says he supports Geraint Thomas’s Grand Tour ambitions, and would welcome Team Sky making the Welshman its second protected rider at this summer’s Tour de France. He also says that if needed, he would also support the 29-year-old in the Olympic road race in Rio.
Thomas’s growing reputation as a stage racer was enhanced when he retained his Volta ao Algarve title in Portugal last month, and he impressed during last year’s Tour de France, which Froome won for the second time.
Speaking at a Team Sky training camp on Mallorca, Froome highlighted his team mate’s performance in France in July, when Thomas rose to fourth on the general classification with just three stages remaining, although he lost time on Stage 19 to finish 15th overall.
Quoted on Eurosport, he said: "I think G has definitely got the bit between his teeth this year. Anyone who watched the Tour last year could see what he is capable of.
"It would be great going into the Tour de France with G also [a protected rider] this year."
The 30-year-old finished second to Sir Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 Tour de France, a race that laid bare tensions between the two Team Sky riders that had begun during the previous year’s Vuelta, which many believe he would have won had the team made him the focus of its challenge.
While the relationship between Froome and Thomas is a closer one, he acknowledges that the Welshman’s performance in stage races plus the ability of new signings Mikel Landa and former world champion Mikal Kwiatkowski means he cannot drop his guard.
He said: "It's great that we have got these guys on the team. I know for me that if I become at all complacent these guys are right there to step in and take my place. I'm going to have to be just as good if not better than I've been in the past."
After helping Team GB to gold in the team pursuit in both Beijing in 2008 and London four years ago, Thomas is switching to the road for Rio.
With the road race held on a course that suits climbers as well as puncheurs, Froome said: "If G is flying and I'm struggling, then [I’d] definitely [support him], absolutely."
"I'd be happy playing a role if it meant we could have an Olympic champion,” added the 30-year-old, who won bronze in the time trial at London 2012 and is aiming for gold in that event this summer as well as in the road race.”
The pair were team mates in 2008 and 2009 at Barloworld and both moved to Team Sky for its debut season in 2010, something Froome says has built trust between them.
“The key to all of this is communication,” he explained. “Especially with G. We've been riding together now for coming up to 10 years. At the Olympics it will be a very honest, open discussion between us out on the road.
"Who's feeling good? Can we get the job done today? Will you pull? Will you not pull? It's that team dynamic," he added.
Last month Thomas, whose current Team Sky contract expires at the end of this season, said he believed he was with the best squad to help him realise his ambitions.
"Obviously I want the opportunities to try and win those big races, and I'm confident I'll get them," he said.
"I'm in the best place to learn how to prepare and be ready to win a Grand Tour. I think it's perfect for my development."
However, he added: "If it came to the point where I felt I could compete for the win and being in the same team as Froome was going to jeopardise that, then yes, I would want to explore other options.
"At the same time I wouldn't just go to any random team that can't support you properly.
"I've been working under Dave Brailsford since I was 18 and it works."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.