Sir Bradley Wiggins believes that Geraint Thomas can secure back-to-back Tour de France titles despite his build-up to the race being disrupted by the crash that forced him to abandon of the Tour de Suisse last month.
The 33-year-old heads to the race, which starts in Brussels on Saturday, as defending champion and co-leader, together with Egan Bernal, of Team Ineos in the absence of the injured Chris Froome.
Last year, Thomas came to the race fresh from wins at the Criterium du Dauphiné and at the British national time trial championships, with back-to-back stage wins in the Alps setting up his overall victory at the Tour.
This time around, his best result ahead of the race was third overall behind Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic, and a number of bookmakers have Bernal – winner this year of Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse – slightly ahead of his team-mate in the betting.
Speaking to Eurosport, Wiggins said: “I think Geraint’s preparation this year going into the Tour has been quite different to last year.
"Obviously he’s got the number one, he’s perhaps the pre-race favourite as defending champion.
"He’s not had the best of runs this year, certainly with crashes and illness and just being a household name now which brings added pressures.
“But I think Geraint is mentally strong enough to go into this Tour and really enjoy the moment and thrive off that, and I think he could win a second Tour – I really do."
He continued: “I don’t think not having the best run through this season in terms of how good it was last year is the type of thing to really faze someone like Geraint.
“He’s very mentally strong, very laid-back but at the same time very focused. So I expect good things from Geraint this Tour.”
> Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal to jointly lead Team Ineos at Tour de France
When Team Ineos announced its Tour de France line-up last week, Thomas said: "Winning the Tour de France last year was the highlight of my professional cycling career and racing with the number one on my back is going to be special this year.
"The memories of 2018 will remain with me forever, but now I'm ready to create more with the team this year.
"It's no secret my build-up has been affected by the crash at Tour de Suisse, but I've had a good block of training since and I feel ready.
"Discussing with the team, we believe it makes sense to go into the race with joint leaders as it gives us more options.
“Egan and I will work hard for each other and the team over the three weeks of the race. We've got a really exciting blend of youth and experience in the team."
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.