'I’m just going to try and enjoy myself' — Geraint Thomas readies himself for his 12th Tour de France

Ineos Grenadiers are targeting the yellow jersey with Thomas, Adam Yates and Dani Martínez

Geraint Thomas
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Geraint Thomas has been here before. The 36-year-old has done 11 previous pre-Tour de France press conferences, said some pleasantries about his teammates and some positive things about the state of his form in various places.

He might never have done it in Denmark before, sure, this is the Tour's first visit to the Nordic country, but the identikit hotel conference room could be anywhere. What seems different is Thomas' attitude, as he seems relaxed.

The Ineos Grenadiers rider is chilled for a number of reasons: he does not enter this race as the out-and-out favourite, he is not number one in his team let alone the whole peloton; this is his 12th Tour, and he knows how it all goes; and he has recently won the Tour de Suisse, a nice confidence boost before the biggest race of the year.

It is almost like the 2018 Tour winner does not feel like he has to prove himself any more, that he can take a step back and just race hard.

"I’ve won the race and come second, I’m a lot closer to the end of my career now to the start," the Welshman explained. "I have a lot of experience, and I just want to enjoy this now. Since November, Dani [Martínez] and Adam [Yates] have been the leaders of the team. It’s still that way. 

"Obviously, I’m going well, and I want to be there in the mix and help them, take opportunities when they come. I’m just going to try and enjoy myself, bashing elbows and swearing at each other at 60km/h, on a flat road in the wind, I’ll try and enjoy that. That’s how it is, I’m pretty relaxed about it."

Last week, another British former Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, said that Thomas was his pick for an "underdog" who could win the race. Thomas was flattered by this, but played down any talk of him leading the team, preferring to speak about the work the squad could do together.

"It’s always nice when you hear guys like Brad say that about you," he said. "I’ve been feeling good. Suisse showed I’m in decent shape, and we will see how it goes here. We’ve got a super strong team, and the main thing is that we ride together, ride aggressively together… 

"Hopefully I can be there in the crunch moments and affect the race positively for us. When it comes to the final, who knows. Someone like [Aleksandr] Vlasov is a big underdog as well. Everyone is talking about the Slovenians and Jumbo but there’s a lot of good guys."

"The Slovenians" are the clear favourites for this race. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) have won four of the last six Grand Tours together. Pogačar comes in as the two-time defending Tour champion, and there is little to suggest that his form has changed.

Ineos Grenadiers know this too, which is why they have come to this race with a three-pronged group of GC riders in Thomas, Yates, and Martínez. 

"I think the main difference is that we don’t have the favourite in the race," Thomas told the assembled media. "In the past we’ve had myself, [Chris] Froomey, Brad [Wiggins] and Egan [Bernal]. We’ve always had one of the big favourites going into the start. Roglič and Pogačar have been the MVPs for the past couple of years.

"So we can’t ride the same. If we just pull all day and set tempo, then just man v man, it's going to be hard to beat them. We’ve got a strong team, we can use numbers and use it at the right moments, use it to our advantage. That’s a big difference."

Ineos have had a bit of an evolution this year, with youth coming to the fore; their team for this Tour includes two debutants, Tom Pidcock at 22 and Filippo Ganna at 25. 

"The vibe in the team is as good as ever," Thomas said. "Ever since 2010 it has been a good group. We’ve got a good atmosphere at the moment, we’re ready to get stuck in."

He spoke of being helpful to the younger riders in the team: "With Pippo it’s a bit different, he has won the worlds, has worn pink jerseys. Same with Tom,  but Tom is so young, you can tell when you speak to him. The racing is new to him. It’s not telling him what to do every second of the time. 

"I'm leading by example. Suisse was a good start, we made some good steps there. He’s constantly learning, he’s an intelligent bike rider. He can be successful as well for sure. It’s exciting, a good mix of experience, youth and aggression."

Thomas refused to be drawn on what would constitute a good race for him, preferring to talk about the holistic approach, a bit like if Dirk Gently was a professional bike rider.

"I’ve never really looked at a position to see whether I’ve done well or badly," he explained. "It’s more the process, if you’ve done everything right, if you do well in the race, if you ride well as a team. If you do that, then we will be happy with the outcome. If we do that for sure we’ll be successful. 

"Whether that’s a couple of stages, some days in yellow, maybe a podium at the end in Paris, or maybe winning, or maybe top five. But I think the main thing is the process. That positive vibe we've had since the beginning of the year."

That process might lead to yellow in Paris for Thomas, but that is over three weeks away yet.

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