Geraint Thomas has predicted a “chaotic” start to the Tour de France in Brittany, and believes that Ineos Grenadiers having four potential overall challengers in its line-up may work to the team’s advantage over the next three weeks, if managed properly.
The race gets underway in Brest tomorrow with a hilly stage that ends with a short but punchy climb in Landernau, while Sunday’s second stage ends with a double ascent of the Mûr-de-Bretagne.
> Tour de France 2021 stage-by-stage preview
The Welshman, who won the 2018 race to give what was then Team Sky its sixth victory in seven years, said in the team’s press conference yesterday: “The Breton stages are up and down and left and right and there could be a bit of rain and wind, so it will be a chaotic first week.
“It’ll be a chaotic first week and it certainly will be hard. Even if gaps are not there, there will be guys who have used up a lot of mental and physical energy and that will affect everyone coming into the final week.”
Following the first four days in Brittany, Stage 5 features a 27km individual time trial from Changé to Laval Espace Mayenne – one of two stages against the clock in the race, the second coming on the penultimate day.
"That first time trial will be big because in the mountains there are obviously differences but in the TT there's definitely bigger gaps between some of the pure climbers and the better time triallists,” Thomas said.
“Even if gaps aren't there, there'll still be a lot of guys who have used up a lot of energy - mental as much as physical, so that'll still affect everyone coming into the final week.”
Besides Thomas, who this year won the Tour de Romandie and finished third overall at the Volta a Catalunya and Criterium du Dauphiné, the team’s line-up features two former Giro d’Italia winners, Richard Carapaz and Tao Geoghegan Hart.
The other potential overall contender is Richie Porte, winner of the Dauphiné and runner-up at both Romandie and Catalunya, while the team is completed by Jonathan Castroviejo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Luke Rowe and Dylan Van Baarle.
Thomas, who crashed out of the Giro d’Italia last year due to a stray water bottle at the start of Stage 3, does not think that having so many potential challengers will harm the team’s chances of regaining the yellow jersey, won last year by Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates.
“I think having four guys that can be up there is great. It gives us cards to play later in the race,” he explained.
But he cautioned: “It has its positives and negatives. We can't get carried away and try to protect four riders because that would just be impossible and take too much out of the other four in that first week.
“Communication is the main thing. The good thing is there's no egos in the team and that's why we've been able to perform all season as we have so far.
“As long as we can all be in touching distance, I think that'll be a great strength of ours.”
Thomas, named this week in the Team GB squad for the road race and time trial at the Tokyo Olympics, believes that his consistency this season will benefit him during the race.
“It's just a case of racing as best I can,” the 35 year old added. “I feel in good shape and that experience hopefully will give me a slight edge.”
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