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NÎMES, France (VN) — As the Tour de France heads into the final week, Geraint Thomas, sitting second overall in the general classification, takes the reins of Team Ineos. Egan Bernal, who currently sits in fifth place, will slot in as his super-domestique.
Thomas, the defending Tour champion, is only 1:35 off the lead of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step). It is a tight classification battle behind, with Bernal sitting fifth at 2:02.
Thomas and Bernal began the Tour as co-leaders. Now, Thomas said that he would call on Bernal for support if he needed it in the three crucial Alpine stages to come.
“I wouldn’t hesitate now,” Thomas said on the rest day in Nîmes. “And at the moment, I don’t think either of us have had to do much anyway. Obviously, the closer we get to Paris, the main thing is just to communicate on the road about how each other is feeling. And the main thing is that we try and win that jersey for the team.”
Thomas became Ineos’s ‘Plan A’ when Chris Froome crashed ahead of the Tour. The four-time winner broke ribs, his elbow, and his femur at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
To maximize its chances, Ineos also named 22-year-old Bernal as co-leader. Tough, young, and in only his second grand tour, the Colombian still warrants the role, having won Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse this spring.
Thomas, however, has established himself on top. Despite faltering in the final kilometer of the Tourmalet climb Saturday, he remains consistent, and has the upper hand when it comes to grand tour experience.
“We just need to keep communicating,” Thomas added. “And I think everyone makes out it’s difficult in the team for us two, but other teams have a bit more stress to try and get rid of us both. I think it’s a great position for us to be in. So yeah, we’re relishing the next week.”
After a likely sprint stage in Nîmes on Tuesday, and a lumpy stage for escapees into Gap on Wednesday, the race through the Alps starts Thursday. The three big mountain days could be the most decisive of this year’s Tour.
“I know I’ve done it last year, and I know how to perform over three weeks and to be consistent,” Thomas said. “It’s important not to have a bad day. Maybe a little blip here and there, but it’s certainly a lot different this race to last year, for sure. The main thing for us both is talking and understanding how we’re feeling, and just certainly not racing against each other.”