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Geraint Thomas welcomes joint leadership with Bernal for Tour

Defending champion Geraint Thomas will again have co-leadership at Team Ineos for the Tour de France; this time he is splitting those duties with Egan Bernal

Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour de France champion, is eager to lead Team Ineos at this year’s Tour alongside Colombian climber Egan Bernal.

Thomas will ride to defend his 2018 with the 22-year-old Colombian starting on July 6 in Brussels. Team star Chris Froome crashed in the Critérium du Dauphiné and is unable to compete for a fifth Tour victory.

The British super team, lacking the Froome option, named its roster Friday with Thomas leading alongside Bernal.

“Discussing with the team, we believe it makes sense to go into the race with joint leaders as it gives us more options,” Thomas told The Guardian.

“Egan and I will work hard for each other and the team over the three weeks of the race.”

Thomas’s co-leadership arrangement with Bernal marks the second year in a row that he will have such a designation with Ineos/Sky. In 2018 Thomas entered the Tour de France as a co-leader with Froome. Over the course of the race it was Thomas who emerged as the team’s best option to win the race after Froome crashed early and then lacked the legs to attack in the Pyrenees.

Thomas and Froome appeared to maintain a friendly co-leadership arrangement throughout the race. Months after the Tour, Thomas revealed in his book that he and Froome disagreed on multiple tactical decisions, most notably when Froome decided to attack at the base of the Col du Portet on stage 17, rather than ride to preserve Thomas’s lead.

“It bothered me. The risk of it, not the fact Froomey wanted to see what he could do. Were management reluctant to tell him, or did they really feel he could pull it off?” Thomas wrote in his book, “The Tour According to G.”

Thomas’s co-leadership with Bernal is likely to have a vastly different dynamic during the 2019 Tour. Froome is a four-time champion, while Bernal is racing his first grand tour as a team leader. Thomas entered the 2018 Tour de France riding the form of his career. Coming into 2019, however, it’s Bernal that may have the better legs.

So far in 2019 Thomas has struggled to find his top end. Thomas crashed out of the Tour de Suisse in stage four over a week ago. Bernal went on to win the race to cement his place as a Tour captain.

It will only be his second grand tour after debuting in 2018 and helping Froome and Thomas.

“I don’t want to say that I am a favorite,” Bernal told CyclingProNet. “Geraint Thomas will be our leader, and I will try to help him. I have no problem with that. I still have many Tours in front of me.”

“The leadership? That’s up to the team to decide. Up to now, we haven’t spoken much about that.”

The 33-year-old Welshman has 11 more years experience over his younger teammate and knowledge of how to deal with the sport’s up and downs. He already appears to have bounced back from his “disappointing” Suisse crash.

“When I saw blood dripping from my face I knew the doc wasn’t going to let me continue, so I just stayed sat on the floor. But it was more from just the anger and the disappointment, really,” Thomas said of his crash.

“It was disappointing to have to pull out but it was the right call. I hit my head pretty hard and I was cut above the eye. However, there was no real concussion symptoms in the couple of days afterwards, so I was able to start training again on the Friday after the crash and I’ve had some decent rides since.”

Thomas has raced 26 days this year, the highlight being third overall in the Tour de Romandie.

“All I can do now is worry about myself in training and crack on with that. But the stages I was in during the Tour de Suisse, I was feeling OK and getting better as it was going on,” he said. “But we’ll soon find out what form I am in.”