Yates pleased with Team Sky's first week at Tour de France

Team Sky's sports director, Sean Yates, says he is "very pleased" with the British squad's opening week in its debut Tour de France, and believes that Geraint Thomas could return one day and target a high placing on general classification.

With the departure of Scott Sunderland in May, Yates is the only member of the Sky back-up team with the job title "sports director". He is also the only staff member wtih experience of finishing the Tour de France, though head coach Shane Sutton started the 1987 race.

Yates started 12 Tours and finished nine, winning a time trial stage in 1988 and enjoying a spell in the yellow jersey in 1994.

"I'm very pleased," said Yates as he looked ahead to Saturday's seventh stage. "It was a bit of a mess in the prologue with the weather, and that put a bit of dampener on things. But G [Thomas] did a good ride."

In a calculated gamble, Bradley Wiggins, the team leader, started early in the prologue in Rotterdam, to try and avoid the forecast rain, but in the end, suffered arguably the worst of the conditions.

"After what he did in the Giro [where Wiggins won the first time trial] the prologue wasn't ideal," said Yates. "I was in the car behind him, and it wasn't just the speed he was taking the corners, it was the way he was taking them. He was not in it at all. C'est la vie."

Tuesday's third stage, over the cobbles, saw the team's fortunes begin to turn around. "We got through the Roubaix stage," said Yates, "and at the end of the week we've had a second place, a couple of thirds, and we've got G in white and second overall.

"It was a major thing getting through that third stage. A lot of guys were bricking it beforehand, but, in our team, everyone did a great job."

"In my opinion, this Tour won't be decided by seconds as it was last year, certainly among that top five," said Yates. "Last year it was all very close, but I think this year there'll be bigger time gaps."

Thomas has, for many, been a revelation. "We saw him in the [Criterium du] Dauphine doing a great prologue, a great time trial, and riding relatively easily in the mountains yet still finishing 21st on GC," said Yates.

Asked if the 24-year-old Welshman could one day return to the Tour as a GC rider, Yates said, "I think so, yes. But -there's a long way to go. The London Olympics stand in the way a bit, but he's got the qualities, he's got the determination, and I think it's something he should aim for."

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Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.

He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi

His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.

Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.