Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) won two consecutive summit stages, including Alpe d’Huez and wears the race leader’s yellow jersey, now leading experts say he can win the 2018 Tour de France.
The Welshman leads the race with 1-39 minute, a time gap that looks even better given it is over team-mate Chris Froome. In third, Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) sits at 1-50.
“I think so,” Quick-Step Floors sports director Brian Holm responded when asked if Thomas can win the Tour.
“He’s an amazing rider, he’s a good looking British gentleman. Winning two stages in a row is amazing, and when you win two stages like that in a row… He’ll win the Tour de France.”
Thomas’s lead was built on avoiding the bad luck that struck his rivals in the opening week and strong climbing legs in the Alpine stages. He rode away from his rivals, and Froome, at La Rosière and the Alpe d’Huez finishes.
“I think he can win this Tour de France,” Trek-Segafredo director, Steven De Jongh said. “He’s in a very comfortable position, he has the strongest team, so without any bad luck I see him winning this.”
“For sure, yes,” added Rik Verbrugghe, sports director at Bahrain-Merida. “In the past he’s shown that he has [one bad day], but he’s strong, and when you see Sky has a strong team, then it’s difficult to play the two horses. They have to make some choices that we’ll see deeper into the race.”
If the climbs or circumstances do not eliminate one of them, then Sky will have to decide if they are backing Thomas in yellow or four-time winner Froome.
Froome is aiming for a record-equalling fifth title and to become the eighth to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour in one season.
After some transfer stages, including the short climb to Mende on Saturday, Thomas faces three tough Pyrenean stages and the final hurdle, the time trial, on stage 20.
“The pressure in the team is definitely one [of the hurdles for him winning] and the factor that Chris is wanting to equal [the record], so there’s pressure in there,” Dimension Data’s team principal, Doug Ryder added.
“They hardly have any competition left. They can both go top three definitely, but the TT will be a critical factor too.”
Ryder indicated Thomas’s main issue would be with Froome. “Potentially yes,” he continued. “It’ll be interesting to watch for all of us.”
“The biggest challenge is going to be a bloke called Chris Froome,” Holm said. “Some may might say the race is boring because Sky is so strong, but I think it’s going to be exciting to see how they are going to [deal with] Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. It could come down to the last TT, I cross my fingers for Geraint.”
The team’s biggest rival could be Tom Dumoulin, sitting third overall at 1-50. He won the 2017 Giro d’Italia and placed second to Froome this May in the 2018 edition.
“[Thomas is] sitting in a really good situation,” Sunweb sports director Luke Roberts said. “He has a handy lead – over his team-mate. He has a strong team to support him. He will be pretty difficult to beat from here unless he has a bad day or something happens along the route. It’s a good situation for him.”
“I think that Sky can play two horses, so the pressure is not really on Thomas,” added Verbrugghe. “Froome is still within contact. It’s less pressure for [Froome], and that could be better for [Thomas].”