Here’s how you know you’re the team’s protected rider in the Tour de France: Only you get to run the air conditioner for your hotel room.
That cruel truth was discovered by Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas after the Roubaix stage in this year’s Grand Boucle. The team had portable air conditioner units for all the riders but that overloaded the hotel’s electrical system. So, the team decided that only Froome could cool off his room while the others were left to recover in their overheated rooms.
It was one of several instances of the team showing clear favoritism to Froome, who was attempting to win his fifth Tour and fourth grand tour in a row. While Geraint Thomas thought he had assurances from Sky that he was also a protected rider, once in France the truth was just the opposite.
The air conditioner story is just one of the juicy little details from Thomas’ book The Tour According to G. He also mentioned how the team told him before the stage two team time trial, that should he have a puncture or mechanical, they womb’t wait for him. They.’d wait for Froome — who was already 52 seconds behind Thomas on GC — but not the Welshman.
His reaction at the time — “That’s a bit shit. F—— hell, guys, could you really not wait for me?” Answer, yes, we’re not waiting for you. Which proves that the definition of protected rider is rather fluid at Team Sky unless you’re Chris Froome.
Despite the favoritism, Thomas believes that if he decides to defend his Tour de France crown next year, he’ll get more fair treatment from Sky. “The team obviously know I can do it now,” he said. “So I think we’ll be on a level playing field. I’m confident that, as long as we’re honest and open, we can both go for it. I’d happily help Froomey if he got through the first block of mountains and he’s strongest. I wouldn’t ride against him to try to win then.”
That may all be well and true. Still, if I were Geraint Thomas, I wouldn’t believe any promises from Sky. And I’d make sure to bring my own air conditioner.