Geraint Thomas is keen to finalise his long-term future before the start of this year’s Tour de France, saying he is still open to offers from other teams despite Team Sky’s determination to retain his services.
The Welshman has been the subject of transfer speculation since his breakthrough performance at the 2015 Tour de France set his trajectory as a stage racer and potential Grand Tour contender.
He signed a one-year contract extension two years ago to take him through the 2017 season. That contained a clause providing the option of an additional year, which was activated ahead of last year’s Tour de France, despite offers from several other teams.
The 32-year-old now finds himself faced with a similar decision as he considers his options for 2019. Team Sky are understood to be keen to keep him – Thomas being their only British GC rider apart from Chris Froome – but there is interest from other teams who could offer a true Grand Tour leadership role.
“I just want to get it done as soon as I can really,” Thomas told Cyclingnews at the Critérium du Dauphiné. “Hopefully before the Tour. It would be good to get it done and wrapped up.”
Thomas has been with Team Sky since the team’s inception in 2010 and acknowledged that familiarity was a major draw, as well as confirming Team Sky’s determination to tie him to a new deal.
“For me personally, being here certainly works well for me. I know exactly how the team works and I feel comfortable. I feel like I get all the support I need to be in best shape possible, I get to do the programme I want,” he said.
“The only thing is when it comes to Grand Tours; my programme there fits around what Froomey’s doing, really. It’s a great team but obviously there are a lot of other good teams around. Team Sky obviously don’t want me to go, so it’s hard to say no when there’s that bit more incentive to stay.”
One team manager recently suggested to Cyclingnews that teams have started to grow tired of chasing Thomas for multiple seasons without interest being shown in the opposite direction.
Thomas, however, insisted he hasn’t shut the door completely.
“It all depends what’s on the table in front of me,” he said. “Once you get actual concrete offers then you can actually look at it. At the moment some people are saying they’re interested or whatever but it’s different to actually siting down and going ‘here you go this is what we’ve got to offer’.”
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Egan Bernal: a future rival?
It’s not just Froome – due to lead Team Sky for the fourth successive Grand Tour next month despite his on-going salbutamol case – who is a potential barrier to Thomas’ personal ambitions. Team Sky are famous for having multiple riders who could feasibly lead other Grand Tour teams and the rapid rise of Egan Bernal could jeopardise Thomas’ position as the secondary GC rider on the team.
The 21-year-old Colombian is considered one of the biggest talents in the sport and his blistering start to life at Team Sky – he has won the Tour of California and the Colombia Oro y Paz this year, as well as finishing second at the Tour de Romandie – has accelerated expectations. He is set to be rewarded with an improved contract at the end of this season and is expected to be fast-tracked into a first Tour de France start next month.
“The competition for places is one thing I’m used to. I thrive on that. It was the same at British Cycling and it’s always been the same here,” Thomas insisted.
“Having to work hard and fight for your place and fight for that role in the team, it keeps everyone on their toes, and certainly it helps me stay on it. Egan is just another great rider to have on the team. There are three Grand Tours in the year, so that’s potentially six guys who can all be targeting going in as leader or co-leader. I think it’s positive for the team.”
As for this year’s Tour, Thomas wouldn’t expect Bernal to have any thoughts or expectations about the general classification.
“If he does the race then he’ll be a super asset to have in the mountains. That first week, I’m not sure. I don’t want to second guess what the tactics are going to be, but I’d have thought, being his first Tour, he’d just take it easy, try and stay out of trouble, and get through as easy as possible. Like Wout [Poels] has done in the past – lose a bit of time here and there and not stress about GC. Get through as best as possible and be in the best shape in the high mountains where he’ll be a massive benefit for us.”