Whether Geraint Thomas can obtain the result he so dearly desires at this year's Giro d'Italia will remain an unanswered question until May but few can doubt the Welshman's ambitious nature as he embarks on the most important season of his career so far.
The Giro is a race littered with the shredded hopes and dreams of previous Sky leaders with Richie Porte, Mikel Landa all failing in recent years. After cracking in 2013 Bradley Wiggins never even rode another three-week race but Thomas is also conscious of the fact that a strong performance at the Giro could conceivably lead him to pastures new.
"I'd love to go to the Tour one day as a leader," he casually tells Cyclingnews mid-way through a long interview at the Tour Down Under.
"But for the Giro, I'm looking forward to it. It's a new challenge and a totally different programme. It's exciting."
The Giro d'Italia certainly opens up doors for the Welshman, who since joining Team Sky in 2010 has ridden Grand Tours in the services of others. For the last three years, he has devoted his strength to supporting Chris Froome, and although it has led to two top-15 places the itch to race for himself has only intensified.
"I don't think that the leaders for Sky have ever even finished the Giro. I think they've all pulled out for one reason or another, so we've not had the best result in that respect but starting out we really just had that one focus and goal of winning the Tour.
This year Thomas will head to the Giro as a co-leader with Mikel Landa, the Spaniard Team Sky essentially signed to win the race at the start of 2016. There is still a long way until May and Thomas knows that much can happen in the months leading up to the race. Well aware that teams can publicly call on dual leadership but have a different strategy, the former Paris-Nice winner will need to perform ahead of May.
"For sure going into the Giro you'll know when you're sat on the bus that one guy is better or more likely to get the result but you can't say that until the end of April.
"Leadership, I think that it will sort itself out during the race, to be fair. A lot can happen in the first half of the race. Then you've got a long TT and then you're in the final week. We're both different riders on the climbs but saying that I think we can both use each other. If he's going up the road I can sit back and vice versa. It's a bit up in the air but I think that we can play off each other. We just have to be honest with each other."
Thomas has raced the Giro twice during his career but it is a very different animal to the Tour de France. The Italian race can be an unpredictable force, the weather can turn at the drop of the hat and typical Team Sky tactics can be ambushed with greater regularity. Yet for the next few months Thomas will be constantly asked the metronomic question as to whether he can finish on the podium; top five; or top ten.
"Putting a number on where I finish… you go in there looking for the best result that you can. Even if it's top ten that's really nothing for the team but it would be the first one I've had and it would still be big.
"I don't want to be sat in a pub when I'm 45 saying I could have gone to the Giro but I was working for Froome."
Should the experiment fail at least Thomas will have tried. It would probably warrant a second attempt before a reversion to week-long races and the Classics but should Thomas succeed he would be faced with the toughest dilemma of his entire career – stay at Sky under the wing of Froome or move to another team.
He has had the option to leave before with Orica and Cannondale both interested in signing him in previous seasons but until now he has chosen to stay put.
"It's not something I've written off, moving teams. I've thought about it long and hard before but I've always felt like I was on the right path here. I'm learning and progressing. It's not a closed shop, I don't just think I'm here for the rest of my career.
"I've spoken to both of them [ed Garmin and Orica] and there are teams I've generally thought about but at the time I liked where I was and I was starting to get more leadership in the week-long races and the Classics. I was happy and improving.
"I'd love to go to the Tour one day as a leader and see what I can do but at the same time I don't want to go to any old team to be a leader and not have the best background staff."
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