Geraint Thomas has played down talk of a leadership battle inside Team Ineos during the Tour de France and avoided speculating on if Chris Froome will make a mid-season transfer to Israel Start-Up Nation, telling the BBC he believes in meritocracy, with the unpredictability of racing after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic lockdown meaning everyone could suffer a bad day and lose time during the three weeks of racing.
Thomas, like the rest of the Tour de France contenders should have been gathering in Nice today for the Tour de France Grand Depart. Instead he is training hard at altitude in the French Alps, apparently with Froome and several other Team Ineos teammates, in preparation for a return to racing in August and the the rescheduled September Tour de France.
Thomas, 2019 Tour de France winner Egan Bernal and Froome have been told by Team Ineos management to prepare for a leadership role and a chance of another Tour de France victory. Froome and Bernal have both talked up their ambitions in recent, escalating a leadership battle in the team.
Cyclingnews revealed that Froome has been in discussions about mid-season transfer, with Israel Start-Up Nation widely considered his logical destination as he aspires for Tour de France leadership and a new contract. Team Ineos have apparently not yet made Froome a clear offer for beyond 2020 when his current contract expires.
Thomas is also ambitious and would love to add a second Tour de France victory to his success of 2018 but prefers diplomacy over open conflict, going as far as saying he would prefer Froome stays at Team Ineos. Thomas' current contract with Team Ineos ends in 2021.
"It does affect me indirectly but, at the same time, I'm not sat in bed at night thinking about that," Thomas said on Froome's possible transfer in cycling August transfer window.
"I've been a teammate of his since 2008 so obviously it would be nice to continue that. We get on well, we work well with each other, we're honest with each other - brutally honest sometimes. But what will be will be and I just leave that to him, and just worry about going up the next hill as quick as I can.
"To see him riding his bike and doing efforts is really good to see because it was a horrendous crash he had. It's great to see him back."
Thomas was forced to accept that Bernal was the strongest in the 2019 Tour de France, despite being the 2018 winner, when Froome conceded leadership to him. He has always liked the mantra that 'the road will decide'.
Team Ineos and Team Sky have won seven of the Tour's past eight winners but they have never tried to do it with three potential leaders and risks any internal rivalry could have on the team to the benefit of their rivals. Yet Thomas sticks to his belief in meritocracy.
"For me, it's the same as always. Try to get there in the best shape possible and, if one of the boys is better than me, then that's the job we're in and you do what you and you've got to help them - and vice versa.
"That's going to start up again and it's been bubbling away for the last few months anyway – contracts, this and that, who's going where and team dynamics and stuff. Hopefully, once we start racing, we can forget about everything else."
"I think everyone will get their fair chance because I think everyone can have a bad day and that doesn't mean their Tour is suddenly over," the Welshman argued.
"We've done it many times now in the Tour. Not the best example but the first time was Brad [Wiggins] and Froomey [in 2012] and it could have been managed better - there was a bit of a fall-out there as we all know.
"But after that we've been able to do what's needed and we've all been professional about it. I'm confident that can continue to happen."
Life under pro cycling lockdown, August race plans
Thomas revealed he will prepare for the Tour de France by riding the Tour de L'Ain (August 7-9) and then the Critérium du Dauphiné (August 12-16). "The Tour is still the main goal for me. The Critérium du Dauphiné, which is the traditional build-up race to it, is on as well.
Thomas spent much of the COVID-19 lockdown at home in Wales but return to his base in Monaco in early May when training outdoors in France was permitted. He has been working hard since then, with his routine much like life under lockdown.
"Lockdown is kind of how we live our lives anyway in a sad way," Thomas suggested. "When we're training, we train on the road, we go home, we eat, we rest, we sleep and we do it again.
"It's only five days instead of eight and it's a bit closer to the Tour. We've got a three-day stage race before then which finishes with the same stage finish as the Tour, which is good.
"We'll have two days off, then the Dauphiné, a few more recons, a week off at home and then the Tour. So suddenly it will be boom and we're back in it. I'm really looking forward to that."
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