Dave Brailsford, director of sport for Ineos, has heaped praise on Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and his teammate Tom Pidcock after the duo had great success for the British team at the Tour de France.
Brailsford also admitted that 36-year-old Thomas proved team management wrong with his result.
Thomas finished third overall behind winner Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). Meanwhile, on his debut at the Tour de France, Tom Pidcock took a stunning victory with a stage win on Alpe d’Huez.
On Thomas’s impressive third-place in the final overall standings, Brailsford said his performance was “to be admired greatly.”
He added: “He has brought his years and years of experience to this and that’s what got him his third place in this year’s Tour. He’s been brilliant, we have seen the best version of [Geraint]. Everybody feels it’s a very satisfying performance for him and the team.”
Brailsford also accepted that the 36-year-old Welshman’s ambition may have been underestimated by the decision makers on the team.
“If I was in his shoes I’d have a wry smile on my face, let’s face it. We sat down and agreed that he’d be a role model to the young lads, a perfect teammate, and I think that slightly relaxed approach worked,” he said.
“He hasn’t put a foot wrong all season. He’s a natural mentor. In the end, top young riders watch the older top riders and for Tom [Pidcock] and the others to watch Geraint and see how he handles himself, well, they will take a huge amount from that,” Brailsford added.
Tom Pidcock’s first ever appearance at the French grand-tour saw him finish 17th overall in Paris.
The 22-year-old Yorkshireman took a stunning stage win on the legendary Alpe d'Huez climb with a display involving fearless descending skills combined with climbing prowess.
Brailsford explained that he feels Pidcock’s performance that day will have rightfully gained him more respect within the sport.
He said: “His win on Alpe d’Huez just sums him up. He was loved for the manner of that win.”
Brailsford was coy on whether Pidcock could be refined into a potential grand-tour contender, choosing to not give anything away on plans for the rider's future.
“I think if you clip his [Pidcock’s] wings you’re taking away from the personality and the bike rider that he is. The mistake would be to drop him into a very sterile approach because I’m not sure that’s right for him,” he said.
He added: “He needs the opportunity to be himself. I think he can set his sights on the Tour in the future, but to get there, he has to be true to his authentic self and his authentic self is a brilliant bike rider across all terrains.”
Brailsford was not present at the Tour de France this year for the first time in a decade but remained fully in contact with team manager Rod Ellingworth.
Last year, Ineos Grenadiers were coming to terms with Richard Carapaz losing out to a dominant Pogačar as the Slovenian took a second successive win. Brailsford concluded that like any other sport, cycling is quick to make big assumptions about riders' futures and all the future success they’re going to achieve.
He said: “In cycling, we all always draw these big conclusions, like last year, that Pogačar will be invincible and, like the first week of this year’s race, when everyone thought he’d got it won,” Brailsford said. “But sport’s not like that. Pogačar isn’t invincible and it [the Tour de France] hasn’t ended as people predicted.”
Brailsford added: “We always consider somebody invincible when they never are. It happened with Chris Froome, Egan Bernal and then Tadej Pogačar. We will see how Vingegaard gets on.”
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