As Team Sky enters its 10th and final year of sponsorship by the broadcaster, Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas and four-time winner of the race Chris Froome have both said that they are targeting the yellow jersey this July.
Froome, winner of the Giro d’Italia last year, will not defend his title with the team’s challenge there set to be led by the 21-year-old Colombian, Egan Bernal.
Froome is seeking a fifth Tour de France victory which would bring him level with Jacxques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. In last year’s race, he finished third behind Thomas, with Team Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin separating the Team Sky pair.
He said: “It’s been a hard decision to figure out exactly what to do in 2019 and figure out which Grand Tours to focus on, especially having won the Giro last year and having had such an amazing time out there with the team – but for 2019, my number one objective is going to be the Tour de France.
“It was definitely a difficult decision not to go back to the Giro d’Italia and defend the maglia rosa. I’ve got some amazing memories from last year, but I think, with the Tour de France as my main objective, it’s probably better that I skip the Giro d’Italia in 2019.
“I’m getting to the point in my career now where I’m starting to think about what kind of legacy I want to leave behind and if I am able to win the Tour de France for a fifth time and join that very elite group of bike riders – only four other people have ever done that – it would just be incredible.”
Thomas, meanwhile, said that the chance of defending his Tour de France title was too good to pass up, and added that he is also targeting the individual time trial at the road world championships in Yorkshire in September.
“The main goal for me will be to go back to the Tour de France for the best result I can,” he said. “Maybe if I hadn’t have won the Tour in 2018 I might have looked at a Giro/Vuelta programme but, having won the Tour, I’ll have the number one on my back and it would be sad not to go back and not to go back at 100 per cent as well.
“The year will be geared around that, but I’m also looking forward to a slightly different programme as well, and obviously after the Tour, the Worlds in Yorkshire will be massive.
“I think the time trial will be my best chance of getting something out of it,” he continued. “It will be a good goal to have for the end of the year. I certainly want to be there because the support in the UK and in Yorkshire especially is just unbelievable at the moment.
“They’re going to be a massive Worlds and it will be great to be a part of that.”
Last year, Froome was cleared to ride the Tour de France just days before the race when the investigation into his adverse analytical finding for an excessive amount of the anti-asthma drug salbutamol at the 2017 Vuelta was closed.
As defending champion, he went into the race as Team Sky’s undisputed leader, with Thomas also a protected rider and the Welshman outlined in his book The Tour de France according to G, published in November, his frustration at what he saw as the preferential treatment given to Froome.
It’s likely they will go into this year’s race on an equal footing, which clearly has significant implications for team dynamics especially if they are both vying for the yellow jersey in the final week as Team Sky aims to go out with a seventh overall victory in eight years.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.