Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas believes he can eventually challenge for the overall victory at the Tour de France following a strong performance in this year’s race. In July, he rode in support of Chris Froome but spent most of the race in the top ten , occupying fourth spot on General Classification with just four stages to go.
His performance in France this summer, where he finished 15th overall, provided further evidence of the 29-year-old from Cardiff’s transition from Classics specialist to potential Grand Tour challenger in what was his sixth season for Team Sky.
A top 10 finisher last year at both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix – Thomas was winner of the junior edition of that race in 2004 - he won his first cobbled Classic this season at the E3-Harelbeke and was also third at Gent-Wevelgem.
But he sees his future in stage racing and after past victories at the Bayern-Rundfahrt, which he won in 2011 and 2014, consolidated his reputation this year as he won the Volta ao Algrave, missed out on victory by just 5 seconds at the Tour du Suisse, where he was runner-up, and clinched fifth overall at Paris-Nice.
With Richie Porte headed to BMC Racing to pursue his own stage race ambitions, Thomas believes he can be the ideal back-up rider to Froome at next year’s Tour de France, having long ago decided he would not seek a third successive Olympic gold medal in the team pursuit.
Speaking to the Guardian, Thomas said of this year’s race: “I thought I might be up there at the thick end for a day or so, but to be there for so long was awesome.
“From day one I was never worrying about myself. I was always thinking about Froomey. So it definitely gave me the confidence that if I focus on it 100 per cent as a back-up GC rider, behind Froomey, and be protected myself, I’ll have a real good goal for next year.”
While Sir Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton once viewed Thomas as the potential first British winner of the Tour de France, he doubted himself that he had what he took to win it until Sir Bradley Wiggins did so in 2012, something he said “flipped the switch in me.”
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Now he says he believes the prospect of his winning cycling’s biggest race is “a lot more achievable than I did three months ago. If I keep on improving, commit to it totally, have a team around me, a podium is certainly realistic. And you’d aim to win it. You would be there or thereabouts – especially if the route was good for me. It’s certainly exciting.”
Team Sky’s success in the 2012 Tour de France – a race Thomas missed as he prepared to ride on the track at the London Olympics – was overshadowed to a large extent by the rivalry between team mates and rivals Wiggins and Froome, who would finish first and second respectively.
But the Welshman doesn’t envisage any such rivalry between himself and fellow Monaco resident Froome, saying “We’re both honest enough to know that if the other guy is better [during the build-up to the race] we’d commit to each other.”
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He’s conscious, however, that time may be running out – Cadel Evans was the oldest rider in the post-war era to win the race when he did so at the age of 34 in 2011, and the third oldest ever.
Moreover, Froome is just one year older than Thomas, who says he “can’t see Froomey disappearing any time soon.”
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He went on: “My deal with Sky expires next year but at the moment I don’t want to leave for another team and be their leader because Sky is the best place to learn – and be in the best position to get a result.
“Maybe two years down the line I will feel: ‘I know exactly what I’m doing now, and exactly what it takes.’
“If I have to leave then, then I would,” added Thomas, who said his relationship with Brailsford remains close and that they had spoken about his future during the Vuelta, which proved to be the final race of his season.
It could always do that. Point of this is about pm pairing lol
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