He's not even in the yellow jersey, and he shares a team with four-time winner Chris Froome (Team Sky), but it hasn’t stopped Geraint Thomas from facing questions over his credentials for winning this year's Tour de France.
It's true that the Welshman has not missed a beat so far in this year's race, and has navigated the opening nine days with a skill and calmness needed to compete over three weeks. He sits second overall, 43 seconds down on maillot jaune Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), with a host of GC riders spread between a few seconds and several minutes further apart.
Froome, having lost time on stage 1 after a late crash, sits eighth, 59 seconds behind Thomas. That figure is likely to mean little at the end of this year's race, but should Thomas move into yellow on stage 10, Team Sky will have to navigate another potential hurdle.
"We'll see how the next few days go really. There's no point in me doing anything unnecessary," Thomas told the gathering media at Team Sky's rest-day press conference in Chambery.
The race, however, resumes with three difficult days in the Alps, with brutal terrain culminating in stage 12 and a finish atop Alpe d'Huez. By that point Thomas and the rest of the Tour de France will have a better idea of the true pecking order in this year's race.
"If I can stay there, we have Egan Bernal and Wout Poels, who can be there in the thick end of things," Thomas said. "We'll know a lot more Alpe d’Huez."
When it was pointed out that he could be in yellow within 24 hours, Thomas replied: "Potentially. It also depends on what BMC do as well but it would be great to take the jersey for you."
Then came the question about a potential win, which was raised by a journalist rather than Thomas himself.
"It's too early to be talking about winning. Maybe if I'm still up there after Alpe d’Huez, but we've not really done a proper climb yet so I'm not getting carried away."
Froome and Thomas have a much healthier relationship than the one Froome had with Bradley Wiggins. That can be in part explained by the fact that Froome has been far more dominant in three-week racing, while Thomas has been patient in waiting for his opportunities.
"We've talked about it [leadership - ed.] in general and he's keen to let me have that chance of staying up there as well, but we're honest with each other," Thomas said. "We can ride well as team for sure. There will be big shake up of the GC after tomorrow. I think Alpe d’Huez will have the biggest selection, but I've ridden with Froome for a number of years and we can certainly be honest with each other. There will be a natural selection that will just sort it out."
In last year's Tour – before he crashed out – Thomas led the race before Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) and then Froome assumed control. The following three days in the Alps, after Sunday's cobbles and the long transfer from the north of France are set to take their toll on the riders. On Monday morning, Thomas and Froome lead the squad on a two-hour ride in order to keep their legs turning over.
"With the travel and everything you want to try and recover as much as possible and keep the body ticking over, because tomorrow is a big day and so are the two other days after that," he said. "It's a big three-day block. Someone always doesn't come out of the rest day as good as they hope, but we'll see. Hopefully, we'll come out well and it's the first day of a big block."
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
after your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.