CARCASSONNE, France (VN) — Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome will be content if teammate Geraint Thomas wins the Tour de France — even if that victory denies Froome a record-tying fifth win.
Froome, 33, said a Sky victory by any rider equals success at the three-week race.
“As long as there is a Team Sky rider on the top step in Paris, I’m happy,” Froome told reporters at the team’s rest-day press conference Monday.
When asked if he was now prepared to sacrifice his own ambitions this year to help Thomas keep his yellow jersey all the way to Paris, Froome answered “Yes.” And should he lose pace in the mountains, Froome said he does not expect Thomas to drop back and pace him back to the lead group. [related title=”More Tour de France news” align=”right” tag=”Tour-de-France”]
The comments are, thus far, the most concrete sign that Froome has accepted Thomas as the team’s leader at this year’s Tour. Over the past two weeks Sky has maintained that the pair owns co-leadership roles. Thomas currently leads the race and Froome sits in second, 1:39 back.
Froome’s comments come as three punishing stages in the Pyrénées loom on the horizon for the peloton, and the yellow jersey may likely be decided by which riders can survive the climbs. Tuesday’s 16th stage from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon includes ascents of the Col de Menté and Col du Portillon. On Wednesday, the peloton will tackle the experimental, 65-kilometer stage over the Montee de Peyragudes, Col de Val Louron-Azet, and the summit finish to the Col du Portet.
After a sprint stage into Pau, the race tackles the final mountain stage of this year’s tour, the 200.5km stage from Lourdes to Laruns, which includes the two highest points of the race: the Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aubisque.
Froome dismissed questions that he might attack Thomas on the climbs to seize control of the race.
“All of this talk about attacking, not attacking, we’re in this amazing position. We’re first and second on the general classification,” Froome said. “It’s not up to us to be attacking. It’s for all the other riders in the peloton to make up time on us and dislodge us from the position we’re in.”
Thomas said he believes Wednesday’s short stage 17 will decide the final positioning into the stage 20 individual time trial.
“The Alps block of racing was tougher with three days back-to-back,” Thomas said. “We get a sprint day into Pau. But I think it’s going to be a war out there.”
Froome said the duo’s goal is to enter the stage 20 TT with a sizable buffer on Sky’s closest rivals Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo). Both Dumoulin and Roglic are strong time trialists.
Froome said Dumoulin’s calculating style of riding could present challenges to Sky over the final six stages of this year’s Tour.
“Dumoulin races almost the way I do it. He is a time trialist that’s learned and trained himself to come into grand tour riding,” Froome said. “Even the way he approaches the climb and mountaintop finishes, he’s quite happy to drop off a few meters behind the main group when there are big accelerations. He can keep a steady tempo. To me, he is more calculating. He is into the numbers a bit more and doesn’t ride on feelings alone. He is more calculated and more planned. It’s a very different dynamic racing against Tom than a lot of other guys.”
Whether that style can dethrone Froome or Thomas will be the story to follow through the remainder of the race.