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Froome, Bernal, Thomas all told to prepare for Tour de France leadership

Bernal, Thomas, and Froome at the 2018 Tour (Image credit: Getty Images)

Team Ineos are making no early promises about Tour de France leadership, with Chris Froome, Egan Bernal, and Geraint Thomas all "encouraged" to prepare to lead the line this summer. 

A decision will only be taken down the line, presumably after racing recommences in July, based on each rider's form and the team's strategy for the race. 

Question marks over leadership between the past three winners of the Tour have intensified in recent weeks, with last year's winner Bernal saying he wouldn't sacrifice his own chances, and four-time champion Froome contacting rival teams about a mid-season transfer

On Thursday, French newspaper L'Equipe claimed Team Ineos boss Dave Brailsford had promised sole leadership separately to all three riders, only for them to find out they weren't alone.

In a statement to Cyclingnews on Thursday, the team clarified their position. 

"In a team with three previous winners of the Tour, all have shown they are capable of leading the team and all are encouraged to prepare to do so," said a spokesperson for the team. 

"We know a lot changes in our sport and a final decision on roles will be made closer to the time when more information is available about each rider’s form, fitness and which best fits the overall team strategy.  

"Given the strength of this year’s opposition we know that it is the collective strength, unity and experience of our team which will optimise our chances of winning."

Froome: The important thing is the team wins

Froome, who insists he's back to full fitness and able to equal the record of five Tour de France titles after career-threatening injuries suffered last June, has spoken about the leadership dilemma at Team Ineos. 

He appeared on the Italian arm of Sky Sports on Wednesday evening and put the team goal ahead of personal ambitions. 

"I am ready for the Tour, and also to be a leader," Froome said in Italian. "The important thing is that, at the end of the day, the team wins. That's the thing that matters. Then the road will decide the rest. 

"Three leaders? I don't know how we will manage it... Joking, we will find the solution and respect our goals. Everyone will want to win, but it's the team that counts."

However, L'Equipe's report on Thursday painted a different picture, with the French newspaper suggesting Froome doubts how three competing interests can be balanced. 

"Sharing leadership between two is possible - less so between three", he is quoted as saying to someone close to him.

Elsewhere in the L'Equipe article, it was reported that Froome had been in contact with rival team managers about a transfer but without "giving the impression of really being willing" to move mid-season. 

"We have to give it a bit of time for things to sort themselves out," he reportedly told one. "I still don't know in what condition I'll do the Tour de France."