2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas says that he'd love to be able to race some form of La Grande Boucle this year in order to support livelihoods within the cycling industry, but also accepts that it may not be possible if the coronavirus crisis continues to keep the sport – and much of the world – in lockdown.
Talking in a Telegraph.co.uk interview published on Monday, the 33-year-old Welshman said that he'd relish the opportunity to try to win a second Tour – as part of a Team Ineos squad that would also likely include defending champion Egan Bernal and four-time winner Chris Froome – but that "there are more important things in life".
The new father – who lives with his wife and son in Monaco – is currently back in Wales, staying fit on the turbo trainer and occasionally taking solo rides and walks outside, as current British rules allow under the coronavirus measures.
"The hardest thing is just the unknown," Thomas told the Telegraph. "If you knew that the Tour de Suisse [in June] was going to be your next race, you could just work towards that; devise a training programme, and do it. But at the moment it's all up in the air.
"Obviously I'd love to have another crack [at a Tour title]. I do feel like I'm in the shape of my life now. These are my years. But it is what it is. There are more important things in life," he said.
"I've heard a few people say, 'It's just sport.' And of course it is," Thomas said. "When you look back through the history books in 20 years' time, if in 2020 there was no Tour, that doesn't matter.
"But, on the other hand, there are 20-odd teams, and companies invested in those teams, and if it went, there [might be] quite a few people left unemployed. So while the result itself doesn't matter, the event does because there are a lot of livelihoods wrapped up in it – not just teams but the sponsors," he said.
One option, mooted by French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu last week – in a bid to potentially still hold the Tour in its scheduled time slot from June 27-July 19, or later in the summer now that the Tokyo Olympic Games have been postponed until 2021 – would be for the race to take place 'behind closed doors', without the usual stage-start villages or roadside fans, in order to protect both the riders and the public.
"Well, it wouldn't be the Tour without the fans… It would be a lot harder to keep [fans] away from the Tour than it was at Paris-Nice," Thomas said, referring to the 'mini Tour de France' held in March, which proved to be the last major race before professional cycling's enforced break.
"But, like I said, everything is changing so fast. It's hard to speculate. I just hope for everyone's sake that is all over quickly," he said of the sport's shutdown.
"I just want to race my bike again, so in that sense I'd love [the Tour] to be on – but only if it was safe to do so. Obviously, at the end of the day, this is about people's health, first and foremost."
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