Geraint Thomas is looking forward to getting his teeth into the first series of high mountain stages and the time trial in this year's Tour de France, but the Team Ineos leader says he does not expect too much race action amongst the GC favourites on Thursday's opening day in the Pyrenees.
"I don't think many GC guys will be attacking [Thursday], it's 30km from the top [of the last first category climb] to the finish and the time trial comes the day after that, so you'd spend a lot of energy doing that," Thomas told Cyclingnews after warming down following stage 12 and on the eve of four days of set-piece battles in the Tour.
"Someone from a bit further down the GC might try it, and we've got to expect it," he said. "But I think the majority of people will be waiting for the time trial and the two mountain-top stages after that."
Thomas said he had raced through the last pre-Pyrenean sprint stage – which was typically fast and fraught in the finale – without any notable incidents. But above all, he was glad to get it out of the way.
"It went OK," he said. "It was really nervous at the end, but I was glad to get through it unscathed."
Some riders have difficulties getting back into racing after rest day, but Thomas said that isn't a problem in his case.
"It doesn't bother me too much. It was a pretty flat day, so I didn't need to do much yesterday, and we'll use today and Thursday] for the big three days."
Above all, Thomas said, he was ready to get into the Pyrenees and what could potentially be key battles for the Tour.
"I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a big three or four days, and we'll get stuck into it and see what we can do."
After talking to Cyclingnews, a relaxed-looking Thomas then spent time having selfies taken – including with a fan sporting a huge Union Jack and another Wales flag – before getting on the team bus.
Meanwhile close by, Team Ineos director Nicolas Portal said that although there had been a couple of important crashes on stage 12, his team had, luckily, come through it all trouble-free.
Like Thomas, too, Portal said he does not believe there will be much action amongst the favourites on Thursday, and he argued Team Ineos, in any case, could afford to race defensively.
"When we are in a good position it's not worth attacking when the next stage is the time trial, and then there's the Tourmalet," Portal told Cyclingnews.
"So it's up to the others to attack, and if they do, the stronger teams could well limit the gaps and then the attackers will have used up energy they need for going into the time trial."
He does, however, expect that top riders who are out, or all but out, of the GC battle "like [Vincenzo] Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) or [Fabio] Aru (UAE Team Emirates) could be the ones to try. And it's a very good stage for somebody like Michael Woods (EF Education First) too."
Of the two toughest Pyrenean stages on Saturday and Sunday, Portal believes that "Saturday is the hardest. The Tourmalet is brutal. It’s going to be key, it'll all but dictate how the rest of the race pans out. And we've got the Soulor beforehand. It's the first summit finish at altitude. That's going to be super-difficult. It's the day that people will say, 'Right, I’m going flat out to see what I can do.'"
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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