Geraint Thomas‘s own hopes of a high placing at the 2016 Tour Down Under may have faded on Corkscrew Hill on Thursday, but the Welshman is relishing his role as a lead-out man and support for his Sky team-mates.
Thomas and his trademark white-framed Oakley sunglasses were visible at the front of the peloton towards the end of Friday’s stage four, where Sky sprinter Ben Swift was narrowly beaten by overall race leader Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge).
“It made a nice change to be back in the lead out,” said Thomas. “I haven’t done one for a while and it’s always nice to do something like that for a good mate. Unfortunately the win just eluded him but hats off to Gerrans, he’s in amazing form.”
Sky originally approached the Tour Down Under with two leaders: Thomas and Sergio Henao. With Colombian Henao the better placed of the two, the team are now rallying behind him as the race hits its toughest day on Saturday, stage five featuring the decisive climb of Willunga Hill.
With Gerrans now sat 28 seconds ahead of Henao overall, Thomas considers that may be too much of a gap to close. Henao will attempt to take the stage victory, and simultaneously protect his lead in the King of the Mountains classification.
“He’s got a 28-second lead on Sergio going into the Willunga stage and it’s going to be nigh-on impossible for us to overhaul that now,” said Thomas.
Watch: Tour Down Under 2016 stage four highlights
“That said, Sergio will really fancy tomorrow. He’s only 14 seconds off Jay McCarthy in second place, so that’s up for grabs, and obviously he’ll be looking to wrap up the King of the Mountains jersey, and maybe a stage win as well.
“Sergio’s come into this race with altitude training in his legs and he’s certainly climbing well. It’ll be a big day for us and we’re all looking forward to seeing how it goes.”
Thomas went into the Tour Down Under having not trained specifically for it as a target, as he eyes races further into the season. The 29-year-old from Cardiff will focus on major stage races, such as Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse, as well as riding strongly in the Tour de France in July.