Sky banks on Thomas ahead of Tour’s cobbled stage

Team Sky looks to protect Geraint Thomas’ fifth place in the Tour de France ahead of tomorrow’s cobbled stage to Arenberg.

“It means the team car will stay high up in the convoy going into the pavé sections, where there is the potential for crashes and punctures,” Sky’s team manager, David Brailsford told Cycling Weekly. “That allows us to be there sooner if anything happens to Bradley [Wiggins].”

The stage takes on some of the cobblestone sectors used in Paris-Roubaix every spring. There are seven sectors in total – 13.2 kilometres – and the last one through Haveluy leaves little time to recover before the finish, only seven kilometres.

Thomas won Paris-Roubaix as a junior and race impressively in this year’s Northern Classics, both in Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. He is one of several strong Classics riders, including Juan Antonio Flecha, that Wiggins will rely on tomorrow.

“The thing about Geraint is that he is in a real rich period of progression at the moment,” continued Brailsford. “People seem to have step changes, it’s not a nice linear thing. It seems that for the moment he has made a step change.”

His fifth place overall at the Tour de France was made possible due to an impressive ride in the opening time trial. He finished 23 seconds off the winning time of Fabian Cancellara and will be called upon in the Arenberg stage.

“If the opportunity presents itself we will take an initiative and Geraint will be a key player if we do so. The team will try to be proactive instead of reactive,” added Brailsford.

“If you want to play the joker then you can there. If you get us in the very high mountains then we have fewer jokers to play. So, if you want to play you joker, you got to do it now. Either you do it or you don’t, you are not going to get a second chance.”

Wiggins, Thomas, Flecha, Steve Cummings and Michael Barry, according to Brailsford, are the jokers.

“It’s an opportunity if you want to take the initiative and we feel confident that we can.”

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Tour de France 2010: Stage reports

Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters

Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win

Tour de France 2010: Photos

Stage one gallery

Prologue photo gallery

Tour de France 2010: Videos

Stage one video highlights

Prologue video highlights

Tour de France 2010: Race guide

Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Official start list, with race numbers

Brits at the Tour 2010

Tout team guide

Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins

Tour de France 2010: Pictures

Tour team presentation, Rotterdam

Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special