Geraint Thomas has lifted the lid on tensions within Team Sky during this year’s Tour de France, when he became the first Welshman – and the third rider from the British UCI outfit to win the race.
In an interview with the Guardian’s Donaald McRae, the 32-year-old, who looked set to be Team Sky’s undisputed leader in this year’s edition until defending champion Chris Froome was cleared to race just days before it started, revealed that their supposed co-leadership of the team was anything but.
He highlighted two episodes in particular – one the 35.5-kilometre Stage 3 team time trial in Cholet, the other being Stage 9 over the cobbles to Roubaix – where it was clear that he ranked below Froome in the team hierarchy, despite the latter having lost 51 seconds on the opening stage after a crash.
Thomas – who stressed in the interview his friendship with his team-mate and fellow Monaco resident, which is clearly on a different footing to the one Froome had with Sir Bradley Wiggins – spoke of how he “sat there and stewed” before the team time trial when it was made clear that only the four-time winner would be protected in the event of a puncture or mechanical breakdown.
“That’s a bit shit,” he recalled himself saying. “Fucking hell, guys, could you really not wait for me?”
Expanding on the episode in the interview, he said: “I was frustrated because I thought I was also a protected rider. But it’s not a decision they took lightly. They would have thought about it and debated it. I said my bit, and they said, ‘No.’ So you have to accept it.
“The likelihood [of a puncture] is really slim but at the time I thought it’s a shit situation. Yeah, it dragged me down a bit, but you let it go.”
He also recounted how following Stage 9 over the pave, “It was really hot in the hotel but when they put the air-con units on for all eight riders the electricity tripped. So they said: ‘Only one person can have it – Froomey.’”
At this point in the race, Thomas was second overall, 43 seconds behind BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet, with Froome a further 59 seconds behind in ninth place on the general classification.
The Welshman said that he managed to find an air-conditioning unit which he wheeled back to his hotel room, whacked it on” and “we were fortunate it didn’t trip out.”
Thomas revealed that on two occasions later in the race, Froome revealed plans to attack a stage – something he welcomed for his team-mate’s openness – and said: “The biggest thing with Froomey was that it was never awkward."
As it turned out, Thomas’s back-to-back wins at La Rosiere on Stage 11 and the following day on the Alpe d’Huez put him firmly in the race lead, and going into the final week, he was the focal point of of Team Sky’s efforts to win a sixth Tour de France in seven years.
"He would have been gutted because he wanted to win a fifth Tour and three Grand Tours on the trot [If he had won the Tour de France this year it would have been Froome's fourth - Ed]," said Thomas.
"But when he congratulated me he seemed genuine, and since the Tour we’ve had a couple of nights out.”
With the route of next year’s race announced in Paris last week, Thomas is clearly keen to try and defend his title, although it’s unlikely to be until the routes of the Giro d’Italia – tomorrow – and Vuelta are announced that Team Sky will crystallise their Grand Tour strategy for next year.
He said: “I’d love to win it again. Each year’s different but I still feel I’m improving even though I’m 32. I still have the motivation and commitment where I think Brad Wiggins, once he’d won it, didn’t have 100% per cent motivation. I’ve still got the appetite. I enjoyed the whole race – not just the end.”
He added: “The team obviously know I can do it now. So I think we’ll be on a level playing field. I’m confident that, as long as we’re honest and open, we can both go for it.
“I’d happily help Froomey if he got through the first block of mountains and he’s strongest. I wouldn’t ride against him to try to win then.”
In what is an extensive interview ahead of the publication of his new book, The Tour According to G, Thomas also spoke about whether he could target both that race and the Giro d’Italia in the same year, as well as French fans’ attitudes towards Team Sky.
A keen Arsenal fan, he also spoke about receiving messages of congratulations regarding his winning of the yellow jersey from the club’s former manager Arsene Wenger plus its record goalscorer Thierry Henry, as well as meeting Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi.
Read the full interview here.
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.