British Cycling Podium Programme rider Geraint Thomas believes Team Sky colleague Bradley Wiggins is entering the Tour de France in the ‘best shape he has ever been in’ as he attempts re-write cycling’s history books.
Thomas, who is missing the Tour in order to prepare on the track for London Olympics, pointed to a forceful Team Sky line-up for La Grande Boucle, in addition to Wiggins’ current form and the improvements made to his already impressive time-trialling capability.
Wiggins heads a nine-man Team Sky outfit, which features Brits Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome; the team’s chief aspiration being the yellow jersey. Victories in the Tour of Romandie – the first British rider to win the event – along with Paris-Nice triumph and the defence of his Critérium du Dauphiné title make it Wiggins’ best season to date and the ideal platform to front a general classification challenge come 30 June.
“I think so, it’s his best chance really,” Thomas replied when asked if Wiggins could become the first British rider to win a Grand Tour. “He is in the best shape he has ever been in and the team is really strong as you saw from the Dauphine.
“So I think going into the Tour he has got the best opportunity - there are quite a few kilometres of time-trialling. But in a three week race anything can happen, we saw what happened last year, but everything he can control he is doing superbly really and the team around him.”
The 99th edition of the Tour de France begins on Saturday with the prologue, a 6.4km time trial around the centre of Liege, with two further individual time-trials on stages nine and the penultimate stage 19 making up over 100km of time-trials pivotal to Wiggins’ hopes.
Thomas, 26, is set to focus on the road post-London Olympics and cites his teammate’s achievements as an inspiration to carve out his own successes. Having won the British National Road Race Championships in 2010 in his first year with Team Sky, notable results include overall victory in the Bayern Rundfahrt in 2011, a win in the prologue of this year’s Tour of Romandie as well as recording two second place finishes in the opening and closing time-trial stages of the Giro d’Italia.
The Welshman is adamant he has plenty of areas on which he can improve if he is to be a serious general classification rider in his own right, and added that finishing runner-up at Dwars door Vlaanderen followed by a top-10 finish at the Tour of Flanders in 2011 has only strengthened an already long forged affection for the Classics.
“The Classics are something which really excite me, that’s something I grew up watching and to get tenth in Flanders last year was amazing so I can really move on in that area,” Thomas enthused. “[I could improve my] climbing – I have never really looked at that or concentrated on that - I have always just raced and raced and just got better from that so really want to sit down and work on that more.
“Seeing Brad in ’09 when he got fourth [in the Tour de France] was something which made me think ‘you can be competitive on the road’ and that gave me the confidence with Sky then in the last two years to really push and move forward and I’ve been doing that well. Seeing how well he is going now is inspiring.”