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Thomas skipping cobbles for smoother Tour run-up

Geraint Thomas says he'll forgo some of his favorite races — those that take place on the cobblestones of France and Belgium — as he prepares for his Tour title defense.

Defending Tour de France champ Geraint Thomas (Sky) is a bit of an anomaly among grand tour winners. He loves racing the cobbles.

Most major three-week contenders stay as far away as possible from the treacherous pavé of Belgium and northern France. Not Thomas. He’s raced 18 monuments during his career, with six tries each at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

This year, however, Thomas won’t risk a shot at the cobbles as he pedals toward defending his Tour crown in July. Why? Because after a clean run through 2018, he doesn’t want to push his luck.

“The cobbles are more crazy and there’s more crashing, so this year I will stick to a more usual racing calendar,” Thomas told VeloNews. “I just can’t take a risk of crashing at the northern classics, though I love those races.”

Thomas is a bit of a throwback when it comes to modern-day Tour de France winners. A veteran of the track, Thomas was slow to develop into a grand tour contender. His build and track skills naturally tilted him toward the classics as he transitioned from the boards to the pavement.

Thomas has been a consistent performer in the northern classics, with a victory in E3 Harelbeke and two top-10 finishes at Flanders, and a seventh in the 2014 Paris-Roubaix.

With the yellow jersey still fresh on his mind, however, he’ll swap out the cobbles for the steep hills of the Ardennes instead. He’ll race Liège-Bastogne-Liège for only the second time of his career and will use Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of the Basque Country to hone his form ahead of the Ardennes. He’ll likely race Romandie as well to round out his spring highlights.

And a possible run at Strade Bianche? Maybe.

“We’re not sure yet. We’ll know in the next few weeks,” Thomas said. “It looks like an amazing race.”

As Thomas eases into a new season as defending Tour champion, he downplays any perceived rivalry with teammate Chris Froome. He was quick to add it’s simply coincidental that they will not race together until July.

“I haven’t planned my schedule around him. It’s just the way it happened,” Thomas said. “We’ll be in Tenerife for those altitude camps, so it’s not like we won’t see each other.”

Thomas made a low-key season debut at the Volta a Valenciana earlier this month. After a busy off-season that included an extended stay in the United States over the winter, Thomas is only focused now on hitting the Tour in top shape.

“It’s been a good kick up the ass,” Thomas said of racing. “Now I am going to turn it up a notch in training and dieting. I’ve been so busy since July. I’ll get out to Tenerife and knuckle down. It’s all about getting in the best shape possible for July.”