Welshman Geraint Thomas will step up to be leader of Team Sky in selected stage races next season, according to the squad’s manager Sir David Brailsford. His focus will be on longer races rather than the Spring Classics.
In an interview with Sky Sports on Friday morning, Brailsford said that Thomas had a ‘breakthrough’ season after a strong performance in the Tour de France in support of Sky’s overall winner Chris Froome.
“Thomas emptied the tank in the Tour de France, it was a breakthrough tour for him. He performed to a higher level than he’s ever performed before,” said Brailsford.
Talking about whether Thomas and Froome would clash over team leadership duties, Brailsford said:
“The challenge about our sport is that it is about sacrifice, so everyone in the team sacrifices everything for one guy to win. But what you want is a team of guys who are all there or there abouts, they’re all challenging and pushing each other. You create that internal competition, which is very difficult as a coach to be able to create that.”
“Chris has earned the right to be the leader of the team having won the Tour twice, but I think Geraint is developing very, very fast and he showed this year that his climbing ability had come up to the level of the best in the world, and he time trials really well.”
“For next season he’ll really focus on the stage racing and see how he can go in that arena so it’s nice to have that internal competition.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Thomas from Cardiff took the biggest stage race victory of his career so far in 2015, winning the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal in February, and later went on to place second in the Tour de Suisse and fifth in Paris-Nice.
In addition, he enjoyed his most successful Classics campaign, winning one-day race E3 Harelbeke and coming third in Ghent-Wevelgem.
After the Tour de France, Thomas rode the Vuelta a España in support of Froome, but during the race commented that he had ‘bitten off more than he could chew’ and admitted he was suffering from fatigue.
That fatigue saw him pull out of representing Great Britain in the World Championships in the USA next week after a long year in the saddle.
Thomas left a cryptic message on his Facebook page after announcing that he was withdrawing from the Worlds, saying: “I love racing for GB and the Worlds are a really special race so it was a difficult decision to make, along with the team, but I feel it’s best to rest up now before its all systems go for a big year next year. Watch this space.”