Geraint Thomas 'will be very happy going to the Tour de France as a support rider', says Ineos Grenadiers' Rod Ellingworth

Ellingworth also backs the team to start winning big once Lady Luck falls their way

Geraint Thomas
(Image credit: Getty)

Geraint Thomas will be satisfied to race this summer's Tour de France as a domestique, according to Ineos Grenadiers' deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth.

Many expected the Welshman, who won the Tour in 2018, would be the British team's leader at July's race in the aftermath of Egan Bernal's January crash, but in recent weeks it has became apparent that the 35-year-old faces a fight to be even selected for the race. Adam Yates is now expected to lead Ineos.

After starting his season at the Volta ao Algarve in February, Thomas made his return to racing on Tuesday at the Coppi e Bartali, revealing that a shoulder operation and a bout of Covid had resulted in a "slow winter", adding to CyclingProNet that "the main goal of the season is always the Tour de France." 

But speaking to Cycling Weekly at the Volta a Catalunya, Ellingworth could not promise that Thomas would be on the startline in Copenhagen, although stressed that there remains three months until final selections are made.

"It’s like anything, we have a lot of good quality bike riders, and as I always say it’s about putting the best bike riders on the line when we can, and let’s see what happens between now and then," he said.

"There’s a long way to go, and I think Geraint is pretty clear what he’s doing within the team at the minute - he’s playing a support role, and he’s building.

"Who knows what will happen, but I do also think Geraint will be very happy going and doing a support role if he has to go as a support rider. Who better to have than to have Geraint alongside you?"

Put to him that Thomas has made no secret of his desire to win the Tour once again, Ellingworth responded: "He’s still hungry, he wants to win, of course he does, whatever that is.

"Geraint goes into every race wanting to win, whether that’s him winning or the team winning. That’s just Geraint, he’s got that bite about him that is quite unique."

Bad luck thwarts team's ambitions

Discounting three national championship successes, Ineos have won five races so far this year, Filippo Ganna accounting for a hat-trick of those via time trials.

It's the same return as they had posted 12 months ago, but last spring they went on to win three smaller stage races and the Giro d'Italia, a string of success that looks less likely to be repeated this time around with the slow progression of Thomas, the injury of Bernal, the struggling form of Richard Carapaz, and illness affecting Richie Porte.

There has, however, been impressive results from Dani Martínez (third at both the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice) and Carlos Rodriguez (third at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and fourth at the Ruta del Sol).

While confessing that big wins haven't been forthcoming so far, Ellingworth was calm about the team's chances in the coming months.

"I don’t think there is a reason except a bit of bad luck," the Briton said. "It's just things happening, illnesses like a lot of teams have had - I can’t really put a finger on it. We’re not having much luck at this minute.

"The competition is really good at the minute and there’s a lot of really good young guys across the teams. I think, cycling has its ups and downs, and you have to take the knocks.

"I think there’s been a lot of good performances among the team, but we’ve just had a bit of bad luck along the way and it maybe shows with the results.

"The group in general is building well and there’s some good morale in the team, and they’re looking forward to some of the races coming up. We’ll keep plugging away, keep going.

"We’re definitely moving these young guys on a bit which is great to see. If you look at how how the riders rode at GP Denain, the performances were fantastic but the results didn’t really come, but that’s how bike racing goes.

"Carlos today [on stage two of Catalunya], the guy is on good form, super motivation, but he punctured at the wrong time. That’s life."

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