Team Sky's Chris Froome says that it is unlikely that his relationship with Geraint Thomas will go the same way as it did with former teammate Bradley Wiggins. Thomas is one of Froome’s key supporters in the mountains, and showed at last year’s Tour de France that he has the potential to take a strong result in a Grand Tour.
Froome and Wiggins were in the same situation in 2012 during Wiggins’ successful bid at the Tour de France. The pair’s relationship deteriorated during the race, which resulted in Wiggins threatening to abandon and reportedly withholding Froome’s share of the prize money. Froome believes that he has a much stronger relationship with Thomas and says that his recent improvements will push him harder.
“I find it very hard to see things with G going that way,” Froome said during a media day at a Team Sky training camp. “I think just both of our characters we’re both honest and open with each other. In every team you have those little arguments and I think that it’s only healthy to have those and you talk about what you think you can be doing better.
"He’s not a threat definitely but it’s good for me that there is someone there snapping at my heels and if I’m not up to delivering the goods then someone else will. It always helps to have two guys up there on GC and it changes things tactically when you’re up there on a climb.”
Thomas was going strong during the 2015 Tour de France before he cracked on the penultimate mountain stage to La Toussuire. He is likely to have a more protected role at this year’s race too and Froome believes the Welshman has the possibility to join him on the podium in July.
“That would be the dream scenario,” Froome said. “I think that G is lifting his game more and more in terms of stage racing. Last year people asked if he could also get onto the podium and he wasn’t far off, he was a few days short of Paris and he was still in the top five. I don’t see why it’s not possible. He can definitely do it, he’s got the ability and it’s up to him to put the work in.”
With big ambitions at the Olympic Games creating a very busy mid-season, Froome is going to take on a much lighter racing schedule leading up the Tour de France. As previously announced, Froome will begin his season at the Herald Sun Tour with his next race set be at the Volta a Catalunya at the end of March. He kept the remainder of his schedule between Catalunya and the Tour under wraps for the time being.
Froome has had a lengthy winter after being forced to abandon the Vuelta a Espana early on with a broken foot. Despite the injury he’s been able to train well and says that he’s feeling good going into the new season.
“Personally and professionally I feel like I’m in a good place right now. I feel like I’ve got everything to race for. I’ve got an amazing support structure around me and everything is a go at the moment,” Froome said. “I wouldn’t be able to say if I was going any quicker or slower but physically I feel like I’m in a really good place. I worked well in November and December, obviously I took some time off when my boy was born but other than that it has been an uninterrupted winter.”
Froome will be aiming to become the first rider since Miguel Indurain to win consecutive titles at the Tour de France this July. Late last year, five-time Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx said that he felt Froome had no rivals for next year’s Tour saying that Nairo Quintana’s time trialling was too poor and Alberto Contador was too old. Froome respectfully disagreed with Merckx’s comments.
“I certainly don’t feel that I don’t have any opponents. I feel like I’ve got the strongest competition that I’ve had in years,” Froome said. “At the moment, I’d say Quintana and Contador are my biggest rivals. There are also a lot of other guys that you can’t rule out like Aru, I think he’s focussing on the Tour, Valverde has always been up there.
“I imagine that [Contador] is going to be back to his best this time. Everyone could see that he was a bit tired last year after having done the Giro already. I imagine he’ll be at his absolute best at the Tour de France.”