While Bradley Wiggins has indicated that he may have to leave Team Sky if he ever wants to ride the Tour de France again, it seems that Geraint Thomas will stay with the British team and is on course to secure a place in the Tour de France squad.
Thomas, like Wiggins, is out of contract this year and admitted in May that he was considering his options and had several different offers.
Speaking to the Wales Online website, the Welshman said he now expects to stay at Team Sky as he continues to develop as a stage race rider alongside his ambitions to do well in the spring Classics.
Thomas won the Bayern Rundfahrt stage race for a second time recently and is part of the squad that will ride for Chris Froome at the Critérium du Dauphiné. He is expected to ink a new deal with Team Sky before the start of the Tour de France in Leeds on July 5.
“It’s pretty close to being finalised and should be wrapped up in the next couple of weeks as we look to get it nailed down before the Tour,” Thomas said of his new contract.
“It was more about hearing out some of the other teams and seeing what they had to offer. It would have been a bit silly not to speak to anyone and just assume that where I was is the best place. But I have no reason to leave and I am happy here.”
Thomas will ride the time trial and the road race for Wales at the Commonwealth Games just a week after the Tour de France. However he has no plans to return to the track for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016.
“I see my future as giving stage racing a good go and see how I fare,” he said.
“If I can get a few podiums and win a few, I can keep progressing then maybe I can look at the Grand Tours. At the moment it is give those week-long stages a bash and see where we can take that. I still want to ride the Classics because it’s something I have loved to do, but there will be a lot of emphasis on the stage races."
“I have had a few years off the road because of the track and Olympics, so I still feel relatively new to it all. I have only fully committed to the roads over the last couple of years so I still have a lot left to do. Especially seeing what Brad has done, you have to take a lot of confidence from that. I am not saying I am going to go out and win the Tour de France but I definitely have a lot of improvement in me.
“The track is in the past for now. I can’t see me doing it in Rio although I would like to be in the men’s road race. I will never say never and might go back to the track after that. But in the near future it’s not on my mind at all.”
Securing a place in the Team Sky Tour squad
Considering his form, Thomas is a contender for stage victory in the opening 10km time trial at the Critérium du Dauphiné. However he knows he has to work for Froome and secure his place in the nine-rider squad for the Tour de France.
“The Criterium du Dauphine is a big hard race and Froomey is looking to defend his title from last time and put down a marker ahead of the Tour," Thomas explained.
“There are a lot of GC’s who are going to be racing the tour, so it’s a big race and I am looking forward to getting stuck into that. It’s tough because there is a long list of 13 top Team Sky quality riders at the moment all trying to get a place in the team on the Tour de France. All you can doing is keep doing your job and there is no point going out there and racing for yourself.”
Thomas was part of Froome's squad in the 2013 Tour de France but it was a painful experience for the Welshman. He rode through much of the race in severe pain after a crash left him with a micro fracture in his pelvis.
“Barring any incident, I should be on the Tour,” he said.
“There are no real individual aspirations results wise. I would like to move on from previous years and climb a bit better. I would also like to be there more at the end in the crunch part of the stages. Overall, I would like just to be a solid support for Froomey and get him in the best possible place to win the race. It is going to be a stressful opening few days with the pressure of starting in the UK and all the fans."
“Hopefully we can get through unscathed without any incidents unlike last year. Last year was almost a right off for the last couple of weeks. Hopefully I can be involved in the race a lot more than last year.”
Thomas is close to both Wiggins and Froome and avoided taking sides in the debate about Wiggins and the Tour de France. He is just glad not to have the responsibility to make the final decision.
“It’s a difficult one and I am glad I am not Sir Dave Brailsford and am just a rider,” said Thomas.
“My main worry is getting myself in the best shape and getting on the start line. The selection of the balance of the team is down to other people. It’s a tricky one for those guys and I am glad I don’t have to make that choice.”