Geraint Thomas has admitted to frustration at how Team Sky had designated Chris Froome as their lone protected rider at the Tour de France despite the Welshman’s victory at Critérium du Dauphiné in the lead-up to the race.
In an interview with the Guardian, Thomas discussed how he was informed that the team would not wait for him if he punctured or crashed in the stage 3 team time trial at the Tour, by which point he already had a buffer of 52 seconds over Froome.
“I was frustrated because I thought I was also a protected rider,” Thomas said. “But it’s not a decision they took lightly. They would have thought about it and debated it. I said my bit, and they said: ‘No.’ So you have to accept it. The likelihood [of a puncture] is really slim but at the time I thought it’s a shit situation. Yeah, it dragged me down a bit, but you let it go.”
Froome’s status atop the Team Sky hierarchy extended to the use of air-conditioning units at the team hotel. In The Tour According to G, published this week, Thomas noted how Froome was the only Sky rider permitted to use an air-conditioning unit after the electricity had tripped in the hotel following stage 9.
Thomas seized the yellow jersey after winning stage 11 to La Rosière and buttressed his advantage by winning atop Alpe d’Huez the following day. Froome did not surrender his ambitions of winning a record-equalling fifth Tour, however, and twice informed Thomas of his intentions to attack later in the race.
“I guess that’s a good example of not racing against each other because he told me openly he was going to do it,” Thomas told the Guardian. “If he’d been made to ride for me, people could now say: ‘Froomey could have attacked that day. Maybe he could have won.’ But it shows I was stronger. It worked out well in the end.”
Thomas went on win the Tour with Froome reaching Paris in third place overall, and the Welshman insisted that it “was never awkward.” He expressed confidence that the two riders could continue in a similar vein on the 2019 Tour, but noted that they would set out from Brussels on an even standing.
“The team obviously know I can do it now. So, I think we’ll be on a level playing field. I’m confident that, as long as we’re honest and open, we can both go for it,” Thomas said. “I’d happily help Froomey if he got through the first block of mountains and he’s strongest. I wouldn’t ride against him to try to win then.”
In early August, Thomas signed a contract extension with Team Sky and insisted that he had no regrets about not seeking sole leadership of a squad elsewhere.
“I stayed because I feel I’m going to be the best I can be here,” Thomas said. “Going to another team is a gamble. I’ve only got another three big years left so I don’t want to risk it. Obviously, in an ideal world, Froomey would just be riding for me. But I know that’s not possible.”
Thomas has yet to decide on his race programme for 2019 and he admitted that he is tempted by the prospect of riding the Giro d’Italia. He was Sky’s leader for the corsa rosa in 2017, but abandoned in the second week after crashing at the foot of the Blockhaus on stage 9.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure yet. I want to look at the route and go from there,” Thomas said. “But, being the defending champ I won’t go at anything less than 100 per cent. At the same time, the Giro really excites me. It feels like unfinished business.”