The Tour de France winner says he's just trying to concentrate on racing but says the sooner a deal is announced the better for the team
Thomas, racing Tirreno-Adriatico in central Italy, was greeted with the reports after a source said that the team would announce the deal ahead of the Giro d’Italia and it would continue with an even bigger budget.
“As far as we’re concerned, we’re confident we’ll carry on,” Thomas said warming down on his trainer when asked about the news.
Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe is said to be backing the team via his Ineos company, with reported £64 billion in revenues in 2017. Ratcliffe, from Manchester, is the UK’s richest person.
Team boss David Brailsford has been looking for a new sponsor after Sky Media announced it would end its 10-year run as sponsor after 2019. A source told Cycling Weekly that Ratcliffe will back the team and the budget will rise behind the current £34 million annually.
The announcement is said to happen prior to the Giro d’Italia starts in Bologna on May 11. Thomas is building for a Tour de France defence with co-captain Chris Froome, and said having to not worry about the team’s future should put everyone “at ease” in the lead up to July.
“For sure, if it’s sorted sooner, then everyone is a bit more at ease. As far as I know, it’s not completely done, so I don’t want to tempt fate. I just want to leave it to them and we’ll see,” Thomas added.
“Well, once it’s sorted, I’m sure they’ll announce it. I’m not going to put any extra pressure on. Like I say, I just stay in my own little world, my own little bubble and concentrate on trying to get into full fitness.”
Brailsford built the team from 2010 into a Grand Tour winning machine. Bradley Wiggins took the first Tour de France win in 2012 and Chris Froome continued from there with four Tour wins and titles in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. The Ratcliffe deal would allow the team to continue its momentum in 2020 and beyond.
“If [the rumours] are true, then yeah, but I don’t know man, I’m just concentrating on racing. I heard there was a lot of interest, but it’s like when we’re trying to sign a contract there’s always interest but it’s whoever puts the bloody contract in front of you, isn’t it?” said Thomas.
“I don’t know, hopefully, but I’m just concentrating on this race and we’ll let Dave and all of them sort that out.
“You’d hope to think that we’d find something. We are in the best position too, we are one of the best sports teams around, let alone in cycling so you’d hope we could find something.
Brailsford, who had reportedly had offers from US and Colombia, was at the start of Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday and “in a positive mood” in Thomas’s eyes.
“But he didn’t go into specifics for obvious reasons I guess,” Thomas said. “The more people you tell everything to, the more chance there is of it getting out.”
Thomas commented on the team staying British, with roots in the track programme that launched his career.
“For me, as long as I get my money, as long as they pay me…” he said with a laugh.
“For sure, if they stay British and they keep the same values then that’ll be a bonus. Any sponsor coming into the sport is good news.”