Sir Bradley Wiggins says that the Tour de France is Geraint Thomas’s to lose as the race enters its final week, and sees “no sign of him cracking at this stage.”
In 2012, Wiggins became the first British rider to win the race, since when Chris Froome – runner-up that year – has won four of the subsequent five editions as Team Sky have dominated the event.
With six stages to go – three in the mountains – Thomas holds a lead of 1 minute 39 seconds over Froome, who has said that he will support him over the coming days to help secure a Team Sky victory.
Back-to-back stage wins in the Alps last week have put Thomas in the driving seat, but Wiggins, speaking on his Bradley Wiggins Show vodcast on Eurosport, insisted that people shouldn’t be surprised at the 32-year-old’s performance.
“He’s been knocking on the door for quite a few years now, he’s won big races like the Paris-Nice, he won the Dauphiné just before this and he’s coming of age really, as a bike rider, as an athlete and as a person, the way he’s handling himself in interviews, he hasn’t put a foot wrong all race,” he said.
“He’s looked like the strongest rider throughout, and you’d say there is no sign of him cracking at this stage, it’s his to lose coming in to the last week.”
Wiggins pointed out that after today’s rest day, there are “three mountain stages in the Pyrenees, a sprint stage, a time-trial and Paris. He’s got three days in the Pyrenees to lose this race. In the Alps, there was no sign of him cracking at all.”
Asked if he’d always viewed Thomas as a Grand Tour contender, Wiggins said: “Maybe not at the Tour, he’s already ridden it well twice, he finished 15th despite riding in service of other people.
“He’s won the Dauphine and the Paris-Nice, been second in the Tour de Suisse before, British time-trial champion, he’s 32 now, he’s in the prime of his career.
“He’s been an immensely talented bike rider from a young age and he’s now shining.
“This is his moment, he’s coming of age and going in to this third week of the Tour de France, it’s his to lose.”
Wiggins had a word of caution for his former employers, though. “Team Sky have to be careful, as it stands they can’t gamble too much,” he explained.
“Geraint has got 1minute 40 on Froome and nearly two minutes on Dumoulin. Froome only has 10 seconds over Dumoulin.
“I don’t think Chris is going to beat Dumoulin in that time-trial, so it could end up with Tom Dumoulin winning the Tour if they are not careful.
“So their best bet at the moment you’d think would be to put all their eggs in the basket of Geraint Thomas.
“At some point, is a decision going to made to support Geraint in the last four or five days, because that’s the safe bet.”
Thomas, who alongside Wiggins and Froome has been with Team Sky ever since they began racing in 2010, did not ride in the 2012 Tour de France.
That year, he was part of the Team GB line-up defending the team pursuit Olympic gold had helped win in four years earlier, and Wiggins – who had ridden alongside him on the track in 2008 – pointed to that performance as evidence of Thomas’s ability to cope under pressure.
“I watched him as a 21-year-old in an Olympic final in Beijing,” he said. “Nothing phases him, he was 21 years of age, going out and enjoying it thinking we’re going to win the Olympic final.
“I’ve seen him in those pressure environments before and he’s so relaxed, so laid back and nothing really phases him.
“Not to the point of being unprofessional, but you’ve seen the way he’s handled himself on the podium, in interviews, he very calm, saying all the right things and in the race he’s not put a foot wrong.”
As for the relationship between the two riders at the top of the overall standings, Wiggins said: “I think Chris and G will be professional about it, they will be getting on with it.
“They’re both competitive, they will both want to win, but with every day that goes past, time is running out for Chris to do that.
“We will see, whatever happens it’s going to be exciting, if G wins, it’ll be refreshing, great for the Tour de France, great for Team Sky, but at the same time, it would be an exciting couple of days if Chris were to do what he did at the Giro.
“I think they get on, G has ridden selflessly over the last two years in the service of Chris and other riders, and this is his opportunity now and nobody will deny him that knowing what he’s done for other people over the years,” he added.
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