Adam Yates and Daniel Martínez were the men expected to lead the Ineos Grenadiers challenge at the Tour de Suisse, but instead it was Geraint Thomas who carried off the team’s third successive overall victory in the race.
All season long, Thomas has carefully side-stepped questions about the hierarchy at Ineos by stating his simple aim was to reach the Tour de France in the best condition possible. Victory in the Tour de Suisse suggests the Welshman is on course to hold up his end of the bargain, though on Sunday evening, he stuck to his previous stance on the leadership structure in July.
“I’m easy. I just want to go there, race hard and do what I can,” Thomas said. “We’ve got two other leaders in the team. Whether I stay up on GC for a while to play another card or go for stages or help other guys – whatever, I’m happy do whatever. I’ll take my chance, for sure, if it comes. And I’ll help the boys if I have to.”
Thomas’ place in Ineos’ Tour de Suisse plans certainly morphed over the course of the week. He moved ahead of Martínez in the pecking order after the Colombian lost ground on the breathless opening stage, while Yates’ withdrawal after testing positive for COVID-19 made Thomas the outright leader.
Yates will hope to return to action in time for the Tour, while Martínez’s strong displays in the latter part of this race suggested that he will be a factor in July. Thomas acknowledged that Ineos did not have an individual to match Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) or Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), but he maintained their collective strength would allow them to challenge the Slovenian pair.
“I think as a team we can, for sure,” Thomas said. “Man versus man is definitely a different story. They’re super talented and as we all know, they’ve been the MVPs of the couple of years. But I think we’ve got a strong team. It’s just about staying healthy now, which is easier said than done these days. But we’ve got a strong team, we’re all motivated, and we’re all going to go there and give it our best.”
Thomas scratched a seven-year itch by winning this Tour de Suisse, having missed out on the final day against Simon Spilak in 2015. On Sunday, he started the final time trial two seconds behind Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe), and second place on the stage behind Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) lifted him into the yellow jersey.
“To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t win the stage,” said Thomas, who was just three seconds off Evenepoel. “I didn’t realise how close it was and I didn’t really get the time checks. It would have been nice to have gone for that. But I can’t be too greedy. It’s nice to win the overall.”
Thomas raced Sunday's stage on a new Pinarello time trial bike with a striking paint job. "It’s obviously a new bike and they’re trying to keep it under wraps until the Tour… so they’re trying to make it stand out as much as possible by the looks of things," Thomas deadpanned.
In 2018, Thomas’ overall victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné prefigured his eventual triumph at the Tour de France. On Sunday, the 36-year-old downplayed the idea that he was in the same form here.
“I don’t know about that, but it’s nice to get the win,” said Thomas. “From the Tour last year to the end of the season was really hard, probably the hardest period of my career. At the start of this year, I was slightly on the back foot but I just enjoyed the racing and being with the younger guys on the team and building up. It’s super nice to be at the pointy end again.”
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.