Team Sky has a firm grip on the yellow jersey at the Tour de France with Chris Froome, and only a couple of days remaining before Paris. Attacks promised from Movistar came and went without much change. While the race is not completely over, time is running out for Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.
A big part of Team Sky’s success, besides Froome himself, has been Geraint Thomas. The Welsh rider took over Richie Porte’s role as Froome’s lieutenant. Initially deemed to look out for his leader during the cobble stages, he has displayed versatility and a serene attitude in dealing with the pressure that comes with protecting yellow. So well in fact that Froome is now warning that Thomas could be a GC contender very soon.
“The whole team is riding strong,” Thomas told BBC Sport. “Everyone is striving off of Froomey, when everything is going so well, it’s nice, everyone gets confidence from that. We’ve all been riding so well together this whole race so far and [have] great morale on the team.”
Sky has responded to each attack, showing only moments of weakness since entering the final mountains of the race. The Welsh rider is known for his Classics riding, but the big surprise has been his climbing ability. Even after being knocked off the road into a ravine descending he maintains fourth position on GC.
Heading into the home stretch, the race saw late attacks Thursday by both Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). Others joined the previous Tour champions, sparking the race for the top ten. All the while Sky remained cool, controlling the race, as they needed.
“Contador is at six minutes, Gesink is at seven or something,” Geraint explained. “For me personally, I would have liked to have followed it, but when you think of the yellow jersey, there’s no need to panic. Movistar and Astana, they’d get a little bit more nervous before us, so we just let them do it.”
The team remains confident with a three-minute buffer ahead of Quintana, and doubling that above the likes of Contador and Nibali. “When Nibali went it was just about staying with him, it was okay, we felt quite confident on the descents and Froomey can go down hill well,” he said.
The team will have yet another tough challenge with stage 19 boasting the most kilometres of climbing in any stage thus far.