Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas have revealed further details of their ambitions and race schedules for 2019. Froome is hoping to ride the Tour de Yorkshire in early May before he begins his preparations for the Tour de France, while Thomas will make his season debut at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in Spain, ride Tirreno-Adriatico and use the Tour de Suisse as build-up to the Tour de France.
Froome and Thomas confirmed on New Year's Day that they will both target the Tour de France, while Egan Bernal has been designated Team Sky's leader for the Giro d'Italia. Thomas will also target the time trial at the World Championships in Yorkshire.
Froome is chasing a record-equalling fifth Tour and has decided not to defend his victory at the Giro in order to be at his best in July. He will start his season at the Colombia 2.1 stage race (February 12-17) alongside Bernal and then ride the new WorldTour classified UAE Tour (February 24-March 2). Last year he rode the Vuelta a Andalucia, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of the Alps before the Giro d'Italia as he fought his Salbutamol case.
"My race programme next year is going to be a little different," Froome explained via Team Sky.
"I'll be starting off the year over in Colombia for a bit of a change. We'll go and do a training camp out there up at altitude too, before going on to the UAE Tour. They are two races that I've never done before but I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into. It's nice to go for something that's not the same, year-in, year-out. I'm looking forward to those two events.
"I went out to Colombia for a few days in November and it was just incredible, absolutely incredible. There was an amazing atmosphere and it was amazing to see how passionate people are out in Colombia about our sport and how closely they follow professional cycling over there. I'm really looking forward to racing Tour Colombia in February and if the crowds are anything like they were last year we're in for a fantastic time."
Froome's spring programme has still to be confirmed but he seems keen to ride the Tour de Yorkshire (May 2-5) for the first time in his career. That would rule him out of the Tour de Romandie. With Thomas revealing he will ride the Tour de Suisse as final build-up for the Tour de France, Froome is likely to return to the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.
"Later in the year I've potentially got the Tour de Yorkshire on my programme. I'd love to race more in the UK and Yorkshire hosted the start of the Tour de France a few years ago and the atmosphere was just incredible. The race has been growing year-on-year and I'd love to get out there next year as well," Froome said.
Thomas adds the Ardennes Classics and opts for Tour de Suisse
Thomas headed to Los Angeles after the holidays for a block of training, just as he did in 2018, and will return to Europe late in the month for a live event in Cardiff that will look back at his career. The five-day Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana begins on February 6.
Tirreno-Adriatico has an easier race profile and is now more suited to rouleur riders than Grand Tour contenders but the opening and closing time trials give Thomas and Team Sky an advantage.
"I'm starting the year in LA again – it worked pretty well last year and I enjoyed my time there," Thomas explained.
"I think I'll start in Valencia, then Tirreno – I love that race, and I've had a bit of bad luck the last two years so maybe third time lucky – and I think maybe the Tour de Suisse before the Tour. I've been second there before, by five seconds, so I'd love to go back to try and win that.
Thomas will not ride any of the cobbled Classics in 2019 but has added the Ardennes races to his plans for the spring. He made his debut at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2018, finishing 58th and will be back in late April.
"I really enjoyed Liège when I rode it for the first time last year so I'd like to go back," he explained.
"I'll maybe do all three of the Ardennes races – it's still a bit up in the air. I'd like a slightly different approach to that week, maybe end up doing the Tour of the Basque Country, just mix it up a bit really, and I'm looking forward to doing some big races. I definitely want to go back to Liège and will maybe do Amstel and Flèche as well. We'll see."
Both Froome and Thomas are set to include important altitude training camps in their schedules for 2019 due to the testing nature of the Tour de France route.
"The Tour route next year is definitely a difficult one," Froome said.
"It's challenging in a lot of different aspects. More than ever the climbing is going to be emphasised again with very high summit finishes –over 2,000m in altitude – so that's going to be another element to really prepare for. Spending time at altitude beforehand will be really important.
"As always with a team time trial, and an individual time trial on the penultimate stage, time trialling is going to be key as well, keeping that dynamic of who’s going to be in front at what point and who has to be defending, attacking. There'll be a lot of time on the TT bike and there’s a lot to get ready for."
Thomas will wear number one at the Tour de France as the 2018 winner but has a more unfocused approach to the French Grand Tour.
"I like the look of it and I'm motivated for it. I think I'll take the same attitude as always really: I'll try to be there in the best shape and whatever happens, happens," he said.