After his troubled preparations for the race, Geraint Thomas is still poised to finish the Tour de France as runner-up — and that is leading the defending champion to believe that he could win the title again, despite fierce internal competition at Team Ineos.
Yesterday, Thomas’s teammate, Egan Bernal, was to become the first Colombian to win the Tour, barring a crash, and at 22, the climbing phenomenon does not just have an outstanding future, but appears to be a safer bet than Thomas for next year.
Having missed out after his horror crash last month, four-time champion Chris Froome is also expected back next year, providing a puzzle for Ineos manager Dave Brailsford, who must choose who to place in the pole position in Nice in July next year.
“He [Bernal] is probably going to dominate for more than a few years. He’s got a great team around him,” said Thomas, who started the race as coleader with Bernal for Team Ineos, but had to accept the Colombian’s superiority in the mountains.
Thomas crashed in June’s Tour de Suisse and that hampered his preparations. He also hit the deck three times during this year’s race.
Bernal was initially scheduled to lead the team at the Giro d’Italia, but he broke his collarbone in the lead-up to the race and had to focus on the Tour instead.
Froome’s crash at the Criterium du Dauphine opened the door to Bernal, who moved up the ranks in the team hierarchy and effectively challenged Thomas, who next season would have to deal with the return of his fellow Briton Froome.
“[If Froome had been here] I don’t know, maybe it might have been a one-two-three,” Thomas said. “Froomey is one of the best grand tour riders ever — the way he’s strong physically and his mental attitude as well. He’s going to come back next year. I don’t want to think about it now.”
It certainly seems as if Thomas would face a huge challenge if he wants to add to his title from last year, but the 33-year-old Welshman laughs in the face of adversity.
Asked if he could win another Tour, he said: “I think I could. A lot of people probably don’t, but, whatever, that spurs me on.”
Being the defending champion meant that over the past year, Thomas has faced plenty of distractions that he would not have to worry about next year.
“[I knew it would be difficult] from November to be honest — it’s not a joke,” he said.
“It’s tough. It’s tough to come back and get to the same level,” he added. “There are so many distractions, a few knocks and crashes and that was it — but I felt I managed to get into good shape.”
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