Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) believes the unusual nature of the restructured 2020 season will have an impact on performances at the Tour de France, suggesting many riders will ‘blow up’ in the final week.
Originally scheduled for late June and early July, the Tour has been pushed back to August 29-September 20 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Racing is suspended until August, with Strade Bianche on the first day of the month signalling the start of the new calendar. For Tour hopefuls like Thomas, there are only two stage races – the Tour de Pologne and the Critérium du Dauphiné, both cut to five stages – to act as preparation for the Tour.
With doubts over the usual pre-race altitude training camps and reconnaissance trips, Thomas warned we could see a different Tour as a result.
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“Hopefully we’ll have Poland and the Dauphine before the Tour, but there are still question marks over them. There are still question marks over everything, really,” Thomas told Eurosport.
“I think we just need to focus on what it is, as if it does go ahead, and commit to that fully. When it comes to recons or training camps, they may be jeopardised by travel restrictions and things, so it’s a totally different build-up to the Tour.”
As such, Thomas predicted an unpredictable final week. The 2020 Tour starts in Nice and heads for the hills as early as stage 2, with summit finishes on stages 4 and 6 making for an exacting opening week.
After a second week with flatter terrain and a smattering of medium mountains, the final week features three mountain stages before the final time trial up La Planche des Belles Filles ahead of the procession into Paris.
“That last week will be exciting to watch,” Thomas said.
“People might be going super well for the first 10 days or so but without that chunk of racing, and it depends what training they’ve been doing, but I think that last week could see a lot of people blowing up. It’ll be exciting to watch.”
Thomas goes into the Tour as one of three leaders for Team Ineos alongside four-time winner Chris Froome and last year’s champion Egan Bernal. Question marks surround thee triumvirat, however, as Bernal stated he wouldn’t sacrifice his own chances, while Cyclingnews reported on Thursday that Froome is in discussions over a transfer to another team, with the possibility of that coming before this year’s Tour.
Having spent most of the lockdown in Wales, Thomas has now returned to his base in Monaco to start training proplerly for the Tour.
“The main thing for me has been staying fresh mentally,” he told Eurosport. “Obviously the Tour now has a date, but it’s still about 15 weeks away, so that’s a long time. It’s about staying fresh mentally then being ready to really knuckle down when it matters, and not sort of burning all your matches now.”