2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has said that, should both he and Chris Froome ride next year's race, then he believes they will be able to ride as joint leaders, playing down any speculation of internal rivalry at Team Sky in 2019.
Thomas came into the 2018 race as a protected rider but Froome was still considered the team's primary leader. That changed as the race went on and Thomas proved to be stronger in the mountains than Froome, who had already ridden and won the Giro d'Italia. Thomas went on to win the Tour de France by two minutes ahead of Tom Dumoulin, with Froome taking third overall.
"I think that it will be similar to this year in the way that we rode together. We were always honest with each other and I don’t see why we can’t do that again," Thomas said after seeing the presentation of the 2019 Tour de France route in Paris.
Though he is the defending champion, Thomas said that it was not yet certain that he would ride the Tour de France in 2019, saying that a full decision on his programme will be made at the end of the year.
"By the end of this year, I will know which Grand Tour I will ride. First, I have to crawl back on the bike and start training again," Thomas joked.
Thomas has enjoyed a lengthy seven-week off-season, with the Tour of Britain his last race in early September. Since then, he’s been on a whirlwind of travelling – including a holiday in the United States with his wife – as well as toasting his successful year. He is yet to start his preparations for the forthcoming season and still has an appearance at the Saitama Criterium at the start of November before he can start laying down the groundwork for 2019.
"It does feel nice," he said when asked how it felt to be at the presentation after winning it this year.
"It feels good and I'm looking forward to going training again because it has been a bit of a crazy off-season. I'm looking forward to training again and having some big goals again. I've still got a few busy weeks ahead but I can't wait to ride my bike and be tired from training and not from travelling and nights out."
The 2019 Tour de France
Thomas and Froome were both in attendance at the unveiling of next year's route at the Palais des Congres in Paris on Thursday.
The 2019 route has been dubbed a 'classic' Tour de France with none of the gimmicks that have been included in recent editions. There will be five summit finishes across the three weeks, three of which will bring the riders above 2,000 metres. There will be one team and one individual time trial, both 27 kilometres long.
"It's hard to say when you see it so quickly but I think as ever, it’s tough and I think it will be as exciting as ever," Thomas said of the route.
"There are some big stages and, obviously, a lot of climbs finishing over 2,000 metres and the medium mountain stages look hard too. It’s going to be a tough race.
"It will suit the typical Tour specialist, a rider with a strong team around him, there’s a lot of medium mountain stage, and the time trial in Pau will also be crucial. So it will need a well-rounded rider and team to win it.
"I wouldn't say that any of the summit finishes worry me, but stages like the one to the summit of the Tourmalet and to Val Thorens will be exciting stages. That second one comes after 33 kilometres of climbing and after what is another really challenging day. There are certainly some big, big days where a lot can happen."
The 2019 Tour de France will begin in Brussels on July 6, marking the 50th anniversary of the first time Eddy Merckx won the Tour de France. It is also the 100th anniversary of the yellow jersey itself. Having cut his teeth as a Classics rider before turning towards the Grand Tours, Thomas is happy to head back to Belgium for the Grand Depart and cites the stage 2 team time trial as a good opportunity for Team Sky.
"I think that it will be really nice," said Thomas.
"I’ve raced a lot in Belgium in the past before and it will be nice to go back. Obviously, there’s the team time trial, which we’re normally pretty good at, it will be nice to try and win that for a change rather than finishing second or third where we always seem to be."