Geraint Thomas has an interesting biggest fan: Bradley Wiggins.
In a conference call on Thursday, the Tour de France winner turned Eurosport/GCN pundit seemed almost in awe of his former teammate's staying power at the top of the sport: "I've never met anyone like him, who has such a strong mindset really."
It should be said that the pair of British Tour champions are close; they were on the same pro cycling team for five years, and they were both part of the gold-winning Team Pursuit squad in at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
However, it must be quite nice to be so forcefully backed by one of British Cycling's greats, even if he is one of your mates.
While Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) are widely considered the favourites for the Tour, Wiggins thinks the Ineos Grenadiers rider has a chance at the race, starting with the prologue in Copenhagen next Friday.
“Even though he might not have the physical attributes he had a couple of years ago when he won the Tour – as happens to us all – that recent win in the Tour de Suisse was incredible. For sure, he’s in podium contention,” he said. “And because of the real racer that Geraint is, if it gets down to a position where there’s a little bit of cat and mouse between UAE and Jumbo-Visma, he could slip into a move and surprise everyone.”
The Welshman's victory at the Tour de Suisse last Sunday was the latest big victory of his career, joining his wins at the Tour, the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Tour de Romandie, and Paris-Nice on his list of career achievements. With the caveat that only 76 riders finished the Swiss race, as the GC was hugely affected by Covid positives, the Ineos rider is now on his way to the Tour in contention for the yellow jersey.
The last time Thomas won a WorldTour stage race in June was 2018, and weeks later he went on to triumph at the Tour, the high point of his long career. That time around it was the Dauphiné, and in different circumstances, but he will be taking some confidence from his performance in Switzerland.
"He's 36 now, he's coming back from a couple of injury-struck years," Wiggins said. "Maybe there's a little bit of him challenging for his status within the team as a leader the last couple of years with [Richard] Carapaz and [Egan] Bernal. He's now sort of forged himself into a point where he's, for me, the clear leader of the team, having won the Tour of Suisse.
"It's amazing to see him come back year after year with all the injuries he's had and sustained and still get himself into form for the Tour. Even though he's finished first and second in the past I think there's an element of him which is the underdog really and he's in a great position now where he can bounce off the other riders."
Ineos are expected to lineup with Dani Martínez as co-leader, with Adam Yates also in the mix, although the Lancastrian has recently had a bout of Covid. This might leave the door open for Thomas to step forward.
"He has clearly put his hat back into the ring now by winning the Tour de Suisse," Wiggins said. "I've known Geraint since he was a kid really, the day you dismiss Geraint Thomas is at your peril."
Meanwhile, the 2012 Tour winner backed his former teammate - and rival - Chris Froome to show a glimpse of him old self at this year's race.
"He may surprise us all," Wiggins explained. "GC may be beyond him, but it would be nice to see him up the road in a break and pull off a stage win."
The Tour de France begins in Copenhagen next Friday.
Bradley Wiggins will be back on the race motorbike providing regular updates from inside the peloton for discovery+, GCN+ and Eurosport. There will also be regular episodes of 'The Bradley Wiggins Show' podcast throughout the race. Every stage of the Tour de France will be live across discovery+ (opens in new tab), GCN+ and Eurosport in the UK. Territory restrictions may apply in your region.
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