‘It’s going to be war’
The Tour de France gets going again today after a rest day and race leader Geraint Thomas has warned “it’s going to be war out there”.
The Welshman leads his Team Sky teammate Chris Froome by one minute and 39 seconds but the defending champion will fancy his chances of overhauling his colleague in the daunting mountains of the Pyrenees.
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The pair will also face stern challenges from the rest of the peloton. They may also have to deal with hostility from race fans, a handful of whom have spat, slapped and jeered Team Sky as they’ve cycled through France.
Froome still believes he can emulate the great Eddy Merckx and win his fourth consecutive Tour title but Thomas has been the form rider thus far. During yesterday’s rest day in the southern town of Carcassonne he insisted they were buddies not rivals.
“We’re good mates,” said Thomas, when asked about his relationship with Froome. “We’ve ridden in the same team for a number of years now and we’ve generally lived in the same areas. We get on – for now, anyway.”
Never say die
Thomas praised Froome’s “mental strength and his never-say-die attitude”, two qualities that he will need to show in the coming days if he’s to enter Paris triumphant on Sunday.
Today’s 16th stage takes the peloton 218km from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon, which contains two category one climbs and then a spine-tingling 10km descent to the finish line.
As The Guardian says, given his position Thomas should be favourite to win the Tour, but he has never finished higher than 15th in a three‑week tour and has a “persistent reputation for always having one ‘bad’ day”.
If there’s such a day this week expect Froome to make his move. But Froome swerved out of the way of such questions yesterday. “All this talk of attacking or not attacking… we’re in an amazing position, we’re one and two,” he 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.”
Confidence and belief
Thomas’s biggest test is likely to come on Friday, a 200km stage from Lourdes to Laruns that asks the riders to climb the legendary Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aubisque.
For the Welshman it will be as much a mental as a physical test given what has happened in previous Tours. “I had lots of bad luck,” he said. “But here I have won two mountain stages back to back, which is nuts for me, so I’ve got more confidence and belief.”
Has Thomas allowed himself to dream of glory in Paris? “Obviously the closer you get, the more you want to stay on the podium,” he said. “But winning is still not something I’m really thinking about.”
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