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Geraint Thomas of Sky looked uncomfortable as he crossed the finish line
Welshman predicts exciting final week at the Tour
Despite a substantial but not insurmountable buffer in general classification, Geraint Thomas still expects his team leader Chris Froome to face a barrage of attacks in the Alps at the Tour de France. The Sky leader holds a 3:25 lead over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with Bauke Mollema (Belkin) at 3:37 and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) at 3:45 in arrears.
"Other teams will attack, there's no doubt but we're super-motivated having seen how Chris rode yesterday," Thomas told Cyclingnews prior to stage 12, pointing to Froome's display in the time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel.
Although Sky leads the race this has not quite been the procession it appears to have been on paper. On a blisteringly difficult stage to Bagnères-de-Bigorre the thin blue line was almost breached after a succession of attacks. Richie Porte and Peter Kennaugh cracked, while Vasil Kiryienka fell by the wayside for good. Only Froome survived at the head of the race.
"With Richie, I think it was a freak day, a bad day and he proved yesterday that he has got the legs," said Thomas.
"So I think when he's riding well, Peter stays on his bike, then for sure those two will be there straight away. All of a sudden the dynamic changes and hopefully I'll be there too. We're just looking forward to the challenge and we'll fight hard and be there for Chris."
Since his race-threatening crash in the opening week Thomas has sparingly used his energies in a bid to recover for the mountains.
"I feel like the pain has died down and after a few easy days I'm just looking forward to next week and the crunch days for us," he said.
Those crunch days are fast approaching but it may well be Froome who goes on the offensive, putting his rivals to the sword once and for all on the slopes of Mont Ventoux on Sunday.
"We just have to be vigilant and stay attentive for the next few days because anything can happen, even with the wind. On Ventoux if Chris feels good and thinks that he can take more time, then for sure he will.
"When you get into the second week of the Tour a lot of teams will start looking at podium, they'll still try and attack but they could also start looking to protect their second or their third. A lot more factors come into play but it will be an interesting and exciting next week."