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Geraint Thomas embraces growing strength of rival teams: ‘It’s given us a new lease of life’

Welshman sees rise of Jumbo-Visma as positive for cycling and forcing Ineos Grenadiers to adapt.

Geraint Thomas may have the weight of Tour de France leadership on his shoulders, but he’s embracing the new challenges posed to his Ineos Grenadiers super-squad.

2020 did not stick to the grand tour script that has been relentlessly rolled out since by Team Sky/Ineos since Bradley Wiggins took the Tour in 2012.

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The British outfit uncharacteristically lost its grasp on the yellow jersey last year as designated leader Egan Bernal crumbled in the Alps while Jumbo-Visma turned the screw on the peloton and assumed the mantle of bullies of the bunch. The Dutch squad went on to play Ineos Grenadiers at its own game at the Vuelta a España, with Primož Roglič fending off Richard Carapaz to take the red jersey and put a cap on a season that saw Jumbo-Visma emerge as the new team to beat.

Thomas told reporters ahead of stage 3 of the Étoile de Bessèges on Friday morning that his team welcomed the shift in power in the peloton.

“Teams can get stronger and others fall away, that’s sport – you can’t dominate something forever,” he said. “There’s always going to be challenges, you can’t keep winning it all of the time. It’s given us a new lease of life almost. It gives us something to target.”

Thomas will take up the torch at the head of Ineos Grenadiers at this summer’s Tour. Along with co-leaders Richard Carapaz and Tao Geoghegan Hart, the Welshman has the mission of reversing the team’s 2020 disappointment while contending with the increasing confidence of Roglič and his wrecking-crew.

Although team boss David Brailsford is promising an all-new, attacking and offensive Ineos Grenadiers in 2021, Thomas indicated that the tactics would have to reflect the racing.

With some 60 kilometers of time trials at this summer’s Tour tilting the advantage his way, the race could be won through gains against the clock and defense in the mountains.

“Every team can win in different ways … I applaud Jumbo for how they went about it and took it on last year. They had the favorite and they were incredible, and how they’ve come on in the past years. And that’s pushing us,” Thomas said. “There’s a lot of talk about us racing differently as well, but there’s all a time and place in the race and it depends what the situation is.”

Thomas will be looking to repeat the glory of his 2018 victory in five months’ time. His victory over Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome was one of the team’s final trademark bludgeoning victories in France, with Thomas winning by nearly two minutes.

If anything, the 34-year-old is hoping that the changing grand tour landscape and a shift in team strategy alters the robotic reputation the team has garnered.

“Of course, it was always good when we always went there and won, but not that we took it for granted but that it can seem almost ‘easy.’ Now it shows that it’s not as easy as what might have thought in the past,” Thomas said. “But I think it’s great for the race and great for cycling, and hopefully we win.”