However, Thomas (Team Sky), speaking to Cyclingnews before stage one of the Tour Down Under on Tuesday, said it was premature to say if the Vuelta from August 22 to September 13 might offer a chance to gauge his potential as an overall contender.
The 28 year-old Welshman has spoken of wanting an opportunity to race a Grand Tour for overall classification. But when asked if the Vuelta might be a starting point, he said that if the race was added to his schedule, much would hinge on how he came out from the Tour in which he will help fellow Briton Chris Froome try and win overall.
“It’s hard to say now,” said Thomas before his sixth start in the Tour Down Under that finished with Australian Jack Bobridge (Uni SA-Australia) winning. “It’s such a long year. By the time you have done the classics and the Tour, by the Vuelta you could be pretty cooked. So I am not too sure about that. It’s not yet on my program.”
Tour Down Under … it's all for Porte
In recent years Thomas has arrived in Adelaide, Australia for the Tour Down Under with the ambition and form to vie for overall honours in the race – or a stage win.
But this year, he has started the race with less preparation behind him with a view to first peaking for the European spring classics and then tackling a heavier second half of the year that will include the world championships in Richmond, the United States.
“It’s a long year, so in December I wasn’t getting carried away [with training],” he said. Speaking before stage one from Tanunda to Campbelltown, Thomas added: “The first three times [at the Tour Down Under in 2007, 2011 and 2012] I was primarily still riding the track. It was a race to get a good hit out with the speed you have here.
“Then in 2013, when I focused a bit more on the road, I wanted to come here and go well. That’s when I won a stage and got third overall. I came a lot earlier that year – this year, not quite as early and with not quite as much emphasis on the race really.”
Thomas, who finished eighth overall last year, added: “It’s a long season this year – hopefully I will ride the Tour, Vuelta and worlds. So [the Tour Down Under] is not a massive target; but I still love to come back here early and get some good miles in.”
Despite his modest ambitions for the Tour Down Under, Thomas will not hold back if the opportunity arise to attack and win. However, he stressed that the overall winning ambitions of in-form Australian teammate Richie Porte are the British team’s priority
“If the chance comes you’d love to take it, get stuck in a see what you can do; but the main goal for the team is the GC with Richie,” Thomas said.
Thomas, who arrived in Australia on January 3, has been impressed by the strong early form of Porte who recently won the time trial at the Australian road titles. And while he did not see the championships that were telecast live on television in Australia, he said that knowing Porte is in such strong form will lift Sky this week.
“I didn’t see the race, but I obviously saw the result of the TT and have seen the shape he is in – and he’s looking great; probably the best I have ever seen him. I think we are in a great position. We have a strong team here. A lot of us have been here for a while now. We are just looking forward to getting stuck into the race.
“When you see someone going that well who you are riding for, you want to do your best. It gets the best out of everyone really. It gives you something to really race for.”
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After Australia, the classics still beckon …
Thomas may have one eye on the Vuelta and world titles but the classics and other spring races are still on his agenda. He says his early main goals for the year are: “Paris-Nice and the classics, and to try and go there in the best shape possible and carry that form all the way through to Paris-Roubaix and hopefully get something out of those six weeks along the line.
“I am not too bothered where but to get a result in any of those races would be great.”
Thomas welcomes teammate and 2012 Tour winner Bradley Wiggins targeting Paris-Roubaix. The Briton will then leave Sky to focus on his TEAM WIGGINS project. With Wiggins having finished ninth in the ‘Hell of the North’ last year and now focused on the event this year, Thomas is confident Sky will have numbers up front.
“When you look at a team like [Etixx]-QuickStep … they have had numbers,” he said.
“It gives you a lot more options. And the more we have there in the final – the stronger riders – the better really. It’s good to just have numbers in a race like that.
“To have Brad on form – he is one of the best in the world - will be great to have him in the team. He will give us that other option – a card to play which could be crucial.”
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer on The Sydney Morning Herald