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Geraint Thomas plays down Tour de France rivalry with Chris Froome

Geraint Thomas kicked off a second block of early-season racing at Strade Bianche on Saturday, convinced he is back on track as he builds towards the defence of his Tour de France title.

Thomas and Chris Froome will again be joint leaders for the Tour de France, with the Welshman keen to land a rare second consecutive victory, with Froome chasing a record-equalling fifth win.

It seems the road will eventually decide who becomes Team Sky’s protected rider but Thomas played down any tension about team leadership.

"We'll just treat it like we did last year - just be open and honest with each other," Thomas said as he prepared to roll out at Strade Bianche.

"As long as one of wins, that's the goal. If we end up racing against each other and someone else won, when one of us could have won, that would be a disaster."

Thomas and Froome seem unlikely to race together until the Tour de France but Thomas suggested they will have plenty of time to thrash out a joint strategy for the Tour de France while training together at altitude on Mount Teide.

Thomas has always insisted he would focus on the Tour de France in 2019 but rumours and calls for him to ride the Giro d’Italia have continued to circulate, with even bike sponsor Pinarello recently claiming that Thomas would ride the Italian Grand Tour.

"No, No," Thomas made clear when asked if he would ride the Giro d’Italia.

"I wanted to just target the Tour 100 per cent because of being the reigning champ. Maybe if I was second or third last year, I might have done the Giro, but I just wanted to go to the Tour at 100 per cent."

Team Sky have still to confirm their Grand Tour plans but Thomas and Froome will be team leaders for the Tour de France, with Egan Bernal and Gianni Moscon leaders for the Giro d’Italia. After missing the UAE Tour, Froome is expected to ride the Volta a Catalunya and the Criterium du Dauphine as his final Tour de France preparation.

A nice progression

Thomas celebrated his Tour de France for several months in the autumn and winter but has been training seriously since December and is gradually getting back to his racing weight. He is not expecting to fight for victory in March but does not seem concerned about results for now.

"I'm still on the nice progression up, so I feel a lot better than Valencia, but at the same time I don't feel sort of ready to win. I want to enjoy myself, help my teammates where I can," Thomas said.

Like most riders in the Strade Bianche peloton, Thomas is happy race on the dirt roads even if the Classics are no longer a goal.

"I've never done this race but always when I watched it at home, I'd kind of wished I was racing. It's just an iconic race already, even after just over 10 editions. It's totally different," he said.

"[Owain] Doull crashed yesterday beside me in training which wasn't great for the morale. But I'm fine, I didn't come down, he did. It just shows that anything can happen in this race even in the recon.

"I'd love to go back to the classics maybe in three years time or something like that, but it's all about stage racing at the moment."

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