Chris Froome may be aiming to make history with a fifth Tour de France title at the 2018 edition, but the defending champion insists that he will be happy to see a Team Sky rider atop the podium in Paris whether that is himself or current race leader Geraint Thomas.
Froome has won the last four editions of the Tour that he has finished in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and to this Tour as the favourite and after having won the 2017 Vuelta a España and 2018 Giro d’Italia in the last 12 months.
Welshman Thomas, however, leads the race, with an advantage of 1-39 over Froome in second place.
“As long as there’s a Team Sky rider on the top step in Paris, I’m happy,” Froome said at the team’s rest day press conference in Carcassonne.”
He and Thomas spoke to a hotel terrace overflowing with around 100 journalists curious to know how the top team would manage their two stars, and if Froome may be tempted to attack Thomas to achieve that record-equalling fifth Tour title.
“All this talk of attacking, not attacking,” Froome explained. “We’re in this amazing position and it’s not up to us to be attacking, it’s up to all other riders to make up time on us and dislodge us from the position we’re in.”
The 33-year-old also said that he would not expect to see the yellow jersey of Thomas help him if he had a bad day in any of the upcoming mountain stages in the Pyrenees.
Thomas, sitting to Froome’s left at the press conference, came into this Tour with the Critérium du Dauphiné overall victory fresh on his palmarès and as serious back-up plan in case something went wrong with Froome.
However after two back-to-back stage wins in the Alps and five days in the yellow jersey so far, many now see the Welshman as the likely Tour winner when the race finishes in Paris on Sunday.
“Winning is still not something I’m really thinking about. Coming here, the dream was to be in with a shot of finishing on the podium which is still on the cards,” Thomas said.
“I won two mountain stages back-to-back. That’s nuts for me. Obviously the closer you get the more you want to stay on the podium.”
Asked about helping Froome if needed, Thomas added, “It’s all about winning this race, as long as one of us wins, that’s the main thing.”
The race restarts with a stage in the mountains on Tuesday which is followed by the Tour’s shortest stage in years: a potentially explosive 65km day that includes a summit finish. After a sprint stage in Pau, the Tour continues to its final mountain test on Friday and a race-defining time trial on Saturday.
“We’ve seen all three Pyrenean stages, the finals of them anyway,” Thomas said. “The Alps block was probably tougher, three days back-to-back, but here you get the sprint day to Pau. It’s going to be a war out there.”
Team Sky must also consider their other rivals. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), winner of the 2017 Giro d’Italia and second behind Froome in 2018, is only 11 seconds behind Froome and 1-50 minutes back from Thomas.
“He [Dumoulin] is a different type of rider to ride against compared to rivals in the past, to Contador, Quintana and even Nibali,” Froome said.
“The way I view it, he’s a time triallist who trained and learned about Grand Tour riding, even the way he approaches climbs and mountain top finishes, he’s quite happy to drop a few metres behind the main group when there are big accelerations.
“He keeps things very steady, he’s more calculated, he maybe understands the numbers a bit more and doesn’t ride on just feeling alone. That certainly makes it a different dynamic to ride against Tom than other guys.”