The Welshman, winner of the 2018 Tour de France, returns to La Grande Boucle this year alongside Ineos teammates Froome and Bernal as a part of a potent leadership trio. After years of Team Sky / Ineos successfully “letting the road decide” who plays the final protected rider, Thomas is confident the British squad will get it right again this summer.
“For me, it’s the same as always,” Thomas told BBC Sport Wales. “Try to get there [to the Tour] in the best shape possible and, if one of the boys is better than me, then that’s the job we’re in and you do what you and you’ve got to help them — and vice versa.”
After a wash of rumors that long-time teammate Froome may be looking to leave Ineos when his contract closes out this winter and question marks over Bernal’s willingness to work for teammates, 34-year old Thomas is keen to return to competition so attention can shift to what matters — the racing.
“That’s going to start up again and it’s been bubbling away for the last few months anyway — contracts, this and that, who’s going where and team dynamics and stuff,” Thomas said Wednesday. “Hopefully, once we start racing, we can forget about everything else.”
Thomas has ridden in support of Froome through three of the four of the Kenyan’s Tour victories to date, while a crash in stage 9 ruled him out of the back-half of the 2017 race – by which point Froome had already been in yellow for four days. Thomas also played second-best at the 2019 Tour, working for Bernal through the decisive closing stages. Only in 2018 was the Welshman the one to get the wheels to follow, where he had the luxury of both Bernal and Froome towing him toward yellow jersey fame.
Having made tricky leadership situations work since the team’s first-ever Tour success in 2012, Thomas is confident that the heads behind Team Ineos can make it work again this year.
“I think everyone will get their fair chance because I think everyone can have a bad day, and that doesn’t mean their Tour is suddenly over,” Thomas said.
“We’ve done it many times now in the Tour. Not the best example but the first time was Brad [Wiggins] and Froomey [in 2012] and it could have been managed better – there was a bit of a fall-out there as we all know. But after that, we’ve been able to do what’s needed and we’ve all been professional about it. I’m confident that can continue to happen.”
On paper, Froome leaving Ineos would be a boon for Thomas, who would benefit from having one less rider to prove himself against in the leadership conundrum. However, for now, rather than let himself get wrapped up in team politics, Thomas is just focusing on his performance as the Tour looms on the horizon, August 29.
“It [Froome’s future] does affect me indirectly but, at the same time, I’m not sat in bed at night thinking about that,” he said.
“I’ve been a team-mate of his since 2008 so obviously it would be nice to continue that. We get on well, we work well with each other, we’re honest with each other – brutally honest sometimes. But what will be will be and I just leave that to him, and just worry about going up the next hill as quick as I can.”