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Geraint Thomas targets Tour de France – but accepts he may have to play team role

Team Ineos star reflects on emergence of Egan Bernal and possible return of Chris Froome

Geraint Thomas has said he is targeting next year’s Tour de France – but accepts he may have to play a team role, with Egan Bernal set to go to the race as defending champion and four-time winner Chris Froome hoping to be fully recovered from the injuries that kept him out of this year’s edition.

In an interview with the Guardian’s William Fotheringham at the Team Ineos training camp in Mallorca, the 33-year-old acknowledged that while the internal competition within the team might be frustrating for his own ambitions, “It’s a team sport and those two guys are special.”

Thomas said: “Froome is the greatest Grand Tour rider of his generation, and Bernal … to win a Tour at 22, he could have 10 or 12 years of being super-competitive. But at least I will always have that Tour win.”

A crash at the Tour de Suisse in June – which Bernal won to add to his Paris-Nice victory earlier in the year – meant that Thomas did not come into this year’s race in peak condition, and without the race wins he had secured during his preparation 12 months earlier.

He said he could be “happy and proud” of finishing second this year, “but at the time it was disappointing. From the start, the way the season went, and the off-season. The build-up was nothing like 2018, but I was still confident.”

The climax of the overall battle in the Alps was affected by freak weather, and Thomas said: “It was a shame about the cancelled stage and the shortened day. It leaves an unknown. You can’t say Egan shouldn’t have won, but there is a bit of an unknown.”

As for who will lead the team in next year’s race, he said: “We will deal with it as we have done [before]. When I won and Froome was third, when Egan won and I was second, the reason we both finished on the podium was that we were open and honest with each other. We pulled in the same direction, never chased each other down.”

He said that while he still needed to sit down with the team and agree his programme, the Tour was his main goal for the year and he ruled out opting for one of the other Grand Tours to guarantee himself team leadership, explaining that it is the French race that fully motivates him at the moment.

Thomas said he believed that Froome can return to his best following the injuries that have sidelined him since June, but added, “How and when is the million dollar question.”

The Welshman has worked closely in the past with Richard Freeman and Shane Sutton, both within the British Cycling system and with Team Sky, but admitted that he had not been paying close attention to the ongoing medical tribunal that may result in Freeman losing his licence to practise medicine.

The doctor has claimed that the Testogel patches delivered to British Cycling in 2011 were not for an athlete, and that Sutton had made him order them to treat the coach’s alleged erectile dysfunction.

“To be honest, I haven’t followed it too much,” he said. “All I saw was Shane talking on BBC Breakfast about being able to get it up. It’s crazy, Freeman against Shane, thrashing it out.”

Tomorrow evening, the Team Ineos rider’s preparations to defend his Tour de France title last July will feature in a BBC Wales programme, Geraint Thomas: The Road Will Decide, which airs at 9pm on BBC One Wales and will also be available on BBC iPlayer.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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