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GERAINT THOMAS denied Bradley Wiggins’s claims today that Team Sky will have a “real problem on their hands” if Thomas takes the yellow jersey in the Tour de France ahead of Chris Froome.
Thomas sits second to Greg Van Avermaet in the general classification after nine stages, 43 seconds off yellow and 59 seconds ahead of Froome as the race heads towards the Alps.
Though Sky have insisted Froome remains the team leader, Thomas has been given licence to race for himself through the first part of the Tour and 2012 winner Wiggins foresees trouble if he remains ahead.
“This is where it gets difficult, as we hit [the] first mountain stage,” the ex-Sky rider said. “If Geraint stays where he is and takes the yellow jersey they’ve got a real problem on their hands.”
Riding as his domestique, Froome finished second to Wiggins in 2012, and famously appeared to attack his team leader on La Toussuire on stage 11 before sitting up and waiting for him — a moment interpreted as Froome showing he was strong enough to win on his own.
Wiggins said that Dave Brailsford would be “in the ears” of both riders telling them they can win the Tour in order to keep them motivated, suggesting the team principal can be “divisive” and “self-serving” at such times.
“Does Dave B come in and do his usual and be quite divisive and get in each other’s ear and kind of keep them both motivated for the same goal and there be a natural selection?
“Dave will certainly be in both of their ears and be telling them they can both win it, as a way of motivating them, as a way of playing these cards deep into the race and let the natural selections come in to play.”
However, Froome and Thomas downplayed the situation.
“I think the race, as always, will decide [leadership],” Froome said. “For us, it’s fantastic to have different cards to play. Movistar have come here with three leading riders [Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde], and with only one GC contender it becomes difficult to cover all three.
“If you look at all the GC riders, ‘G’ is right up there. It’s for other teams to attack us now.”
Thomas added that it was speculative to even discuss it before a single mountain stage.
“I think it’s a bit early to be talking about that,” he said. “Maybe if I’m still right there after Alpe d’Huez [on Thursday], it’s a bit different then. But we haven’t done a proper climb yet. I’m certainly not getting carried away.”
Asked if he had spoken to Froome about it, Thomas said: “We’ve kind of spoken in general about things. And yeah, he’s keen for me to try … If I do have the chance to stay up there, to let me have that, you know? But we’re honest with each other.”
By keeping Thomas close to the front, Sky are giving themselves a back-up option for Froome, who is attempting to become the first man to do the Giro-Tour double since 1998, and win a fourth consecutive Grand Tour.
The Tour will head straight into the Alps after today’s rest day, with today’s stage 10 taking the peloton over four categorised climbs in 158.5km of racing between Annecy and Le Grand-Bornand.
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