Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) says he is on track to defend his 2018 Tour de France title when the race rolls out of Brussels on July 6 despite a relative lack of race days so far this season and his high-speed crash last week at Tour of the Basque Country.
In an interview with the BBC's BeSpoke podcast, Thomas said he's not far off the form he had last year at this time, and he knows what he's got to do to reach Tour de France fitness. Thomas has raced rather anonymously in the peloton over his 16 race days of far this season, starting the Volta a Valenciana in February. He finished 12th in Strade Bianche, but a stomach bug forced him out of Tirreno-Adriatico on stage 4 last month.
Thomas most recently rode Tour of the Basque Country, where he emerged relatively unscathed from a high-speed crash on stage 3 that sent teammate Jonathan Castroviejo to the hospital with a broken collarbone. The 32-year-old Briton finished the six-stage race 40th overall, more than 35 minutes behind winner Ion Izagirre (Astana).
"I feel like I really needed that," Thomas said of the Basque Country race days. "I've had a bit of a lack of racing, but I'm improving all the time."
Thomas is provisionally headed to Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Flèche Wallonne next, then he'll take on the six-day Tour de Romandie from April 30 through May 6.
"Romandie wasn't the best time for me last year, but that's what gave me the kick up the backside to knuckle down from there on and really push towards the Tour," he said, referring to his 33rd-place finish at the race in 2018. "I'm trying to get [to the Tour de France] in the best shape I can, purely because I won it last year, otherwise I might have looked to the Giro."
Thomas said he'd obviously love to win the French Grand Tour again, but he won't be thinking he 'needs' to win it.
"I feel like there's less pressure because I've done everything I ever wanted to do," Thomas said. "It doesn't mean I'm less motivated, I just don't feel I've got anything to prove. I'm still determined as ever to win it again, but if I don't then hopefully [Chris Froome] or Egan [Bernal] does. That whole thing will be played out on the road, as it was last year."
Bernal, of course, is the up-and-coming Colombian who won Paris-Nice last month and is slated to lead Team Sky at the Giro d'Italia in May. He'll ride just his second-ever Tour de France in July. Froome, on the other hand, will be vying for a record-tying fifth Tour de France win in 2019. Thomas, the defending champion, played down any inter-team rivalry with his longtime teammate and four-time Tour winner.
"I feel like in every interview I do, people are talking about me and Froomey and who's going to win," Thomas said, "but there's a lot of other good riders out there who are performing well at the moment."