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The Welshman admitted that at times he was frustrated to not have the full support and protection his team gave to defending champion Chris Froome. However, he said that any slights during the race never impacted his close friendship with Froome.
“The biggest thing with Froomey was that it was never awkward,” Thomas told The Guardian.
Heading into the 2018 Tour with Froome’s Salbutamol case still up in the air, Sky was expected to give Thomas full backing as GC leader. Then, mere days before the Grand Depart, Froome was cleared.
Thomas was slated to be the second leader behind leader Froome, but from the outset, Thomas was Sky’s top GC rider following a crash that cost Froome time in stage 1. Team management had to make some decisions about which rider would be backed as the outright leader, and that didn’t always sit well with Thomas.
Ahead of the stage 3 team time trial, Thomas was informed that the team would only wait for Froome in the event of a flat tire, although he was 51 seconds behind Thomas in the overall.
“[I] sat there and stewed,” Thomas told The Guardian. “That’s a bit s—t. F—king hell, guys, could you really not wait for me?
“I was frustrated because I thought I was also a protected rider. But it’s not a decision they took lightly. They would have thought about it and debated it.”
Thomas didn’t let frustration distract him from the race, though. He said he let it slide and carried on racing all the way to Paris, where he claimed his first yellow jersey. Froome ended up third to Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb).
Thomas took yellow on the 11th stage to La Rosière and defended the lead throughout the rest of the race. Thomas told The Guardian that Froome did not abandon his ambitions to win the race during the later stages. Froome twice informed Thomas of his intentions to attack in the mountains.
“I guess that’s a good example of not racing against each other because he told me openly he was going to do it,” Thomas said. “If he’d been made to ride for me, people could now say: ‘Froomey could have attacked that day. Maybe he could have won.’ But it shows I was stronger. It worked out well in the end.”
Although Froome was unable to tie the record of five Tour de France GC wins in 2018, Thomas said his erstwhile leader was genuinely happy for him.
What does that mean for the 2019 Tour? Froome was unwilling to draw a line in the sand when queried after the Tour route was announced. In his interview with The Guardian, Thomas said, “I’d love to win it again.” However, the reigning Tour champion looks at the team dynamics realistically. He doesn’t expect Froome to sacrifice his chance at history, and given Froome’s loyalty at the 2018 Tour, it seems likely that Thomas will return the favor.
More details of the 2018 Tour are expected to be detailed in Thomas’s forthcoming book, “The Tour According to G,” out November 1.