By Gregor Brown
Geraint Thomas (Ineos), on the Tour de France's first rest day, is considering yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) an overall threat as the race heads towards the big mountains.
The Frenchman has led the race for six days and has 1-12 minutes on 2018 winner Thomas in second, 1-16 on Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal and 1-27 minutes to Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma).
Team boss David Brailsford said Ineos sit in a good position to try to win their seventh Tour title, but they would rather have Alaphilippe at seconds, not a minute.
"Like Dave said, myself and Egan in second and third is a great situation," Thomas said.
"It'd be better to be closer to Alaphilippe, and not one minute, but we are in a great spot. Getting time yesterday was a real good bonus."
Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick-Step helped Ineos split stage nine to Albi in the crosswinds. They gained 1-40 minutes on Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and other rivals, with Alaphilippe holding on to his yellow jersey.
Alaphilippe won two stages and the mountains classification in the 2018 Tour de France, placing 33rd overall at one hour, 28 minutes behind Thomas in that race, his best result overall in a Grand Tour.
He won Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and La Flèche Wallonne this spring, but his biggest stage race wins remain the Tour of Britain in 2018 and the Tour of California in 2016.
"We didn't mind him gaining a few seconds in the first week here and there, but obviously you have to be more and more aware of him as the race goes on," Thomas continued.
"There are some big days ahead in the mountains and by the second race day we'll know more. If he increased his advantage it'll be a concern."
Thomas, however, has eyes more towards Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) and other proven Grand Tour riders.
"Steven is a very strong rider," Thomas explained. "He could have won the Giro a couple of years ago, he's been consistent, fifth last year in the Tour and top 10s in Grand Tours. He's a big threat with strong riders around him."
Jumbo-Visma won the team time trial and three sprints with Mike Teunissen, Dylan Groenewegen and on Monday on stage nine, Wout Van Aert.
"We just have one goal," Thomas said. "If you look at Jumbo-Visma for instance, they are going for stages, and other teams have riders in breaks, but we just have one goal of trying to win the overall.
"Yesterday was a great day, and it shows you need to be attentive and the ball. Nine out of 10 times nothing can happen, but you have to be attentive. And the guys here have been on winning teams, that adds to it."
Driver cleared of killing cyclist after claiming 'no recollection' of fatal crash
The crash occurred in 2018, with the jury's verdict delivered yesterday
By Ryan Dabbs •
Here are six riders moving down from the WorldTour in 2022
Some pretty big names will be taking the step down as more teams look to build to a WorldTour licence in the coming years
By Tim Bonville-Ginn •