Geraint Thomas was happy to hear his prospects for yellow at this year’s Tour de France talked up by “Grandad Brad” Wiggins but insisted he will take things as they come over the next three weeks.
Thomas goes into Friday’s opening stage in Copenhagen on the back of victory in the Tour de Suisse two weeks ago. However, he is one of three leaders of the Ineos Grenadiers – alongside Dani Martinez and Adam Yates – as they look to take on the likes of defending champion Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic.
Wiggins last week told a Eurosport podcast that the 36-year-old Welshman might be an underdog this summer but warned to “dismiss Geraint Thomas at your peril” as he backed him for a podium finish.
“It’s always nice when you hear Grandad Brad says things like that about you,” Thomas said of the man he won Olympic gold alongside in 2008.
“I’m feeling good. Suisse showed I was in decent shape, so we’ll see how it goes here. We’ve got a super-strong team. The main thing is we ride together, we’re aggressive together and we ride off each other, which is what we’ve done all year.”
But Thomas, who followed up his Tour victory in 2018 with second place behind team-mate Egan Bernal 12 months later, does not want the pressure of setting himself a specific target, saying instead it is about getting the processes right.
“Obviously I’ve won the race and I’ve come second,” he said. “I’m a lot closer to the end of my career now than the start. I’ve got a lot of experience and I just want to enjoy these races now. Since November, Dani and Adam have been the leaders of the team and it’s still that way.
“I’m going well and I want to be there in the mix to help them, and to take opportunities if they come. I’m pretty chilled.”
Ineos have had no answer to Pogacar since he took victory in his debut Tour in 2020, with the 23-year-old Slovenian having won seven of the eight stage races he has started since.
That has taken some adjustment for a team who won seven of eight editions of the Tour between 2012 and 2019, first as Team Sky and later Ineos, but they are hoping strength in numbers can be the answer this year.
“We don’t have the favourite in the race,” Thomas said. “In the past we always had (Chris) Froome, or Brad, myself or Egan, we’ve always had one of the big favourites going into the start. Now we all know it’s Pogacar and Roglic who have been the MVPs in the last couple of years.
“We can’t ride it the same way. We can’t pull all day, set a tempo and then go man versus man to beat them. But we’ve got a strong team, we’ve got numbers, and hopefully we can use them at right moments. That’s a big change.”
Martinez is seen by many as the strongest card in the Ineos pack, though the 26-year-old is still relatively inexperienced in a leadership role. Yates, 29, hopes to be a factor too, having overcome the bout of Covid which forced him to pull out early from the Tour de Suisse.
“I’m much better now,” the Lancastrian said. “I had three or four days that were quite bad to be honest. I had proper fever and chills, it was not ideal. I had to miss some key (preparation) but luckily for me I usually manage to get fit quite quickly.
“I don’t need too much time, but we’ll find out in the time trial on Friday.”
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