Bradley Wiggins has backed Geraint Thomas to win a second Tour de France, claiming the 2018 victor is the clear frontrunner within Team Ineos.
Britain's first ever winner of the yellow jersey reiterated his belief from several months ago that the lockdowns experienced around the world would have benefited Thomas who enjoys training.
With less than four weeks to go until the rescheduled Tour, Wiggins thinks that Thomas will be given eventual leadership in the Ineos team.
In last year's Tour, Thomas was favourite to repeat his success, but his young teammate Egan Bernal eventually won, with the Welshman placing second.
Speaking on his Eurosport podcast, Wiggins said: "Last year, Geraint Thomas was the defending champion at the Tour de France and Bernal was allowed to shine.
"I think had we had the stage to Tignes completed last year, I think Bernal would have cracked and Geraint would have won the Tour that day.
"Now you’d have to say, because Bernal was allowed to win the Tour de France last year, with Geraint as defending champion, the same should apply the other way around this year and Bernal is not granted that automatic right to defend the race.
"So Geraint is open to win the race this year and I actually think Geraint will win the Tour de France this year, no question about it, I don’t think there is an argument within that team."
Wiggins believes Ineos' potential trio of Thomas, Bernal and Chris Froome could be unbeatable at the Tour, but Thomas should not focus the condensed calendar solely around his ambitions for a second yellow jersey.
The two-time Olympic team pursuit champion started his road career showing promise as a Classics rider and even won E3 Harelbeke in 2015.
Wiggins thinks that Thomas should concentrate on the northern Classics after the Tour. "The guys that can train, Bernal, G and Froome, I expect them to be in great condition when they start racing," Wiggins added.
"Even in races like Flanders, guys like Geraint Thomas, coming off the Tour de France, he could win Flanders, he’s the type of rider that can win Flanders.
"I’d love to see him Thomas step up in those races, imagine winning the Tour de France and coming out and winning Flanders or Paris-Roubaix afterwards, I’d love to see that.
"If a Geraint Thomas on top form is going for Flanders or Roubaix, he’s a better rider than Van Avermaet all day, as good as Greg is, on top form he’s just better."
Wiggins also had his say on Froome's impending departure to Israel Start-Up Nation, assessing that the move is fraught with risk but ultimately feels like the correct decision.
"I knew he was thinking of changing teams, I think he needed to really, I think he’s got a lot more in the tank, if he wants it," he said.
"I don’t put anything past him, he can win another Tour, for me. I don’t know if he does want it, though, but by changing teams, that’s the biggest statement he’s made.
"I think, on his day, he could still surpass certainly Bernal and maybe Geraint. He’s got a fifth Tour de France in him, and he was obviously thinking whether he would ever get that opportunity again at Ineos.
"By changing teams, he has probably given himself the best chance to win that fifth Tour. I know they don’t make decisions lightly, Chris and his team, so he would have put a lot of thought in to it and it it’s a brave move because there is no certainty in it at all. I see it as such a positive thing, and he’s really looking to go for that fifth Tour de France."
Could he win a record-equalling fifth this September? "I would guess that Chris Froome won’t be at the level this year to win the Tour de France," Wiggins said.
"I think it might take another year of racing but who knows with Chris, I wouldn’t put anything past him. I think Chris will be the first in there to say he’s going to help his team mates, but for me it’s a two-pronged race for Ineos between Thomas and Bernal."
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