He did it for a number of seasons at Sky, the domestique deluxe, the regular plan B, the loyal teammate who’s always good for a hard pull at the front on a 14% grade in the Alps.
Well, Geraint Thomas isn’t following Froome’s wheel anymore. From pretty much the moment Froome made his surprise announcement that he’d tackle the Giro-Tour double — a race the Welshman had assumed was his to captain — Thomas decided it was time to stop playing in the backup band.
Then, when Puff Daddy’s salbutamol case hit the public, Thomas had even more reason and motivation to separate his fortunes from Froome’s. He’s made it clear in several interviews over the last few months that he now considers himself plan A.
At least for now, that shift in attitude seems to be working. He got Sky and team manager David Brailsford to accept that whatever happened to Froome, he’d have a free role at the Tour de France and the opportunity to ride for himself.
Just today in an interview with cyclingnews, Thomas reiterated his new place in the Sky hierarchy. “When I was going through plans with Tim [Kerrison] and Dave [Brailsford] we said that we’d treat it as if I was the leader for the Tour and that I’d do everything I could to be in my best shape there,” said Thomas.
“Mentally I’ll be ready to do the best I can overall, and if Froome is there then I’d still like to stay up in GC as long as I can. That first week, especially with the wind and the cobbles, so much can happen. I think it’s good to have two guys.”
There are plenty of lines in there to read between but when you box that up with his quotes about ethics and TUE’s and his fatigue with the several messes Sky has created, there’s no mistaking his intent. He’s going to take what he needs and deserves and if he’s not happy at the end of the season, then he’s moving on to another team.
The ethical issues, in particular, seem to bother him. While he’s classy enough to avoid calling out people, there’s no doubt where he stands. “It’s definitely, obviously about the rules but it’s also about the ethics. It’s just the way that I’ve been brought up, to be honest,” said Thomas. He’s not making a case for or against Froome, just making it clear he’s grown weary of being caught up in Sky’s controversies — whether that’s a Jiffy bag or an asthma inhaler.
It seems that Thomas is taking a sober and realistic view of a potential change in environment and he understands it’s yet another volatile time in pro cycling. “It would have to be the right team, but there are certainly a couple out there that I would go to. I think we’ll just have to see how that develops in the next couple of months or so,” said Thomas. “It’s interesting times, and I just need to weigh up the positives and negatives of going.”
One thing he has weighed up is his role at Sky. Whatever happens to Froome, good or bad, Thomas isn’t going to follow his wheels.