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Reigning champion says he is close to being in the same shape he was last year

Geraint Thomas says he would “love to win” the Tour de France for a second year in a row as he prepares for the defence of his title this July.

The 32-year-old returns to racing next week at the Ardennes Classics the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege before heading to Switzerland for the Tour de Romandie.

Today, organisers of the Swiss stage race, which starts on 30 April, confirmed that Thomas and his colleagues will ride in the colours of Team Ineos, with the petrochemicals group formally taking control of Team Sky’s management company from 1 May.

Speaking to BBC Sport’s BeSpoke podcast, he said of the Tour de France, which this year starts in Brussels: "I'd love to win it again, but I'm not going to be thinking 'I need to win'.

"I'm not far off what shape I was in last year. I know what I've got to do."

After stomach problems cut short his participation in Tirreno-Adriatico in March and the early termination of a training camp on Tenerife due to bad weather, the Welshman raced at the Tour of the Basque Country last week.

"I feel like I really needed that," he said. "I've had a bit of a lack of racing but I'm improving all the time.”

Thomas finished 33rd last year at the Tour de Romandie, but proved his form in June ahead of the Tour de France, winning the overall at the Criterium du Dauphiné and the national time trial championship.

"Romandie wasn't the best time for me last year but that's what gave me the kick up the backside to knuckle down from there on and really push towards the Tour,” he said.

"I'm trying to get there in the best shape I can, purely because I won it last year, otherwise I might have looked to the Giro."

Team Sky have dominated the Tour de France in recent years, winning six of the past seven editions, and in their new incarnation as Team Ineos will go into this year’s race with three strong contenders for the general classification – Thomas, four-time winner Chris Froome, and the young Colombian Egan Bernal.

Thomas said: "I feel like there's less pressure because I've done everything I ever wanted to do.

"It doesn't mean I'm less motivated, I just don't feel I've got anything to prove.

"I'm still determined as ever to win it again but if I don't then hopefully Froomey or Egan does. That whole thing will be played out on the road, as it was last year.”

Last year, Thomas gained time on defending champion Froome after the latter crashed on the opening stage and took the yellow jersey and consolidated his lead with back-to-back stage wins in the Alps.

That gave rise to speculation that their might be similar tensions in Team Sky to those on the 2012 Tour de France between eventual winner Sir Bradley Wiggins and runner-up Froome – and it’s clear from comments each have made in the past week that the acrimony hasn’t died down.

Responding to Froome's revelation that he had problems trusting Wiggins during that race as a result of his experience at the previous year's Vuelta when he was made to work for his team leader despite wearing the red jersey as overall leader, Wiggins said on his Eurosport podcast that Froome "couldn't scratch his arse" prior to the 2012 Tour.

However, both last year’s winner and Froome have played down talk of rivalry, with Thomas saying: "I feel like, in every interview I do, people are talking about me and Froomey and who's going to win, but there's a lot of other good riders out there who are performing well at the moment."

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.