Tour de France: Thomas announces climbing prowess on Plateau de Beille

Froome praises Sky’s ‘domestiques deluxe’

The stage 12 summit to Plateau de Beille witnessed the arrival of Geraint Thomas replacing Richie Porte as Chris Froome’s right-hand man in the mountains.

Along with Porte, who has confirmed he is leaving Team Sky next year to pursue his own general classification ambitions, Thomas calmly reeled in attacks by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the final third of the 15km hors catégorie climb to ensure Froome remained in the race’s malliot jaune.

Thomas' efforts were met with praise by Froome, who singled out the 28-year-old as a challenger for the top-five overall and possibly a podium in Paris.

“I was very fortunate to have Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas all the way to finish with me there,” Froome said of his teammates' composure in dealing with attacks from the best climbers in the world. “Obviously Geraint’s done a fantastic job up until now, he’s right up there on GC. I think the other GC contenders are going to have to look after him now as well.

 “I think he could potentially be up there on the podium, potentially top-five," Froome sake. "Anything is possible.”

 Throughout Thomas’ career, the Welshman has been a consistent and successful performer at the classics before turning his attention to stage racing and grand tours. For Thomas to blossom as a cyclist and fully fulfil his talents, calls have been made that he focus on stage racing or the classics, forgetting that some of the greats of the sport, such as Merckx and Hinault, successfully combined the two.

While the professionalisation of cycling in the last two decades has seen endless specialisation of riders’ talents, Thomas’ calendar and palmarès are somewhat of an anachronism.

Thomas’ versatility was key to Froome coming out of the first ‘classics’ style week of the Tour ahead of his major GC rivals. The ability to ride at the front over varied terrain in numerous race scenarios was early evidence of Thomas’ development for Froome, with his Pyrenean exploits further rounding out his skillset as he explained.

“G is really talented," Froome said. "G’s been great, absolutely fantastic, all first week on cobbles, wind and rain. We go into Pyrenees and finished the hardest stage and he’s been right up there in every one of them.”

In 2012, Sky came to the Tour de France with Froome riding in support of Bradley Wiggins, finishing one-two overall. A year later, Froome assumed Wiggins’ role and Porte stepped into Froome’s to claim back-to-back wins. Last year, the Froome-Porte combination continued, with the Australian taking on full responsibility when Froome crashed out the race in 2014.

In 2015, that role has been assigned to Thomas.

With Porte announcing that his major objective of the 2015 season was the Giro d’Italia, Sky’s signing of Nicolas Roche, Wout Poels and Leopold König suggested the next domestiques deluxe needed to be drafted into the team.

The new trio have offered support to Froome so far this Tour when the roads have gone upwards, with Porte playing important cameos along the way. However, the one constant for Froome has been Thomas and the 2013 champion believes his teammate to have well and truly earned the right to test himself as a GC contender in three-week racing.

“I don’t think it’s going to be long before we see G leading a grand tour for himself,” Froome said.

Whether stage 12 proves to be the launching pad of Thomas’ grand tour ambitions, or merely a notable performance, will need revisiting when he makes the decision regarding the primary emphasis of his career. For now, the likes of Tejay van Garderen, Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador will need to keep an eye on Thomas least they lose their top five positions on GC to Wales' first grand tour contendor.


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