Tour de France 2022: what if Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) was more than an outsider? “It’s very undervalued”

There are three winners of the Tour de France at the start of the 2022 edition. Tadej Pogacar, double starter, is the scarecrow of the event. Christopher Froome, a four-time winner who suffered a serious fall in 2019, is an attraction outside of the overall standings. For these two, the picture seems clear. Geraint Thomas remains … the most difficult to catalog. Is it the symbol of INEOS Grenadiers rebate or an underrated favorite?
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Before Hurricane Pogacar took the Tour platoon, in 2020 and 2021, Thomas remained in two high-level Grand Loops. Crowned in 2018, he ceded the scepter to his partner Egan Bernal a year later, who is also in special condition. The Colombian had established his dominance during a truncated 19th stage, the outcome of which could have changed without this shortening of the route. Since then, the Welshman has evolved under the radar.

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Wiggins: “There’s no shit with him”

Bradley Wiggins, his former Sky mate, points to this discrepancy between Thomas ’list of awards and his position. Try to explain it to our colleagues fromEurosport United Kingdom : “Heit is greatly undervalued. I think it’s because he’s involved in the success of his team. He did not join this training (INEOS Grenadiers, Sky in the past) after being successfulAdd an elegant personality to it and you have a great runner, not a star.

When he’s not in good shape, he’s the first to say itdevelops Wiggins. There are no “tunes” with it (…) sense ‘razzmatazz’ (English expression that can be translated as ‘show off’ or ‘flashy behavior’, editor’s note.) “Our expert sees nothing pejorative. Has Geraint Thomas been forgotten? Much better:”You didn’t expect much from him this season and he suddenly shows up two weeks from the Tour. It’s incredible (…) I’ve always been his big fan. “

Geraint Thomas is stronger than Bradley Wiggins

It is the most underrated, since he won the Tour de France, every time he has never been citedshares Nicolas Fritsch. He would be thought to have never won the Tour, nor made another podium“Geraint Thomas’ victory in 2018 had not surprised the former French driver. He was warned.”One of my best friends was a member of the Sky staffexplain. He told me in 2011, or early 2012, “Geraint Thomas is stronger than Bradley Wiggins.”

A few weeks later, Wiggins won the Grande Boucle. Thomas, a gold medalist in team pursuit at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, had not changed. “He was not well known at the time.continues the 3rd of the Tour de Suisse 2002. But in all the tests, etc., he assured me that Geraint Thomas was the strongest. It took a little longer to arrive (at the top of the road, editor’s note), but I often take it to my friend, telling him he was right. “

Geraint Thomas is 36 years old and has not shone for three weeks since 2019. There is, therefore, beyond his little recognition by the general public, a certain logic in his retreat, away from the spotlight. “He is underestimated compared to what he has done … and even compared to what he still does today.Fritsch shadow. Every year, he does a World Tour race: the Tour de Romandie last year, the Tour de Suisse this year. “

A return to Switzerland as a reminder

Destined to be a luxury companion of Adam Yates and Daniel Martinez on Swiss roads (June 12-19), the Welshman took the “lead”, internally, first. Martinez had a slow start, Yates left the race for a positive Covid-19 test and Thomas took the favorite costume in a test marked by a thinning of the peloton (153 runners at the start, 76 at the start). the arrival). To the point of winning.

It is true that Aleksandr Vlasov was in the lead after five stages (not a runner during the sixth), but Geraint Thomas also made a good impression. We found him a conqueror on the mountain, still with his ability to get one last superpowered mile. “in steamroller modeFritsch said. As for the time, the former track rider only failed 3 seconds behind Remco Evenepoel during the final stage, beating Stefan Küng, for example.

Thomas domesticates the Tour de Suisse, but not the Evenepoel: the summary of the last stage

It’s not enough to punch the table a few days before the Tour de France (July 1-24), according to a Thomas accustomed to the abundance of goods. “I will not waste time on purpose“, he just advanced BBC Sport Walesprepare for “help the other boys, or try (she) opportunity“We continue with Martínez and Yates, comrades”of a winner caliber“that Geraint Thomas should share the lead during this upcoming Tour”relaxed“.

A first week cut for him?

Thomas knows the recipe, at the dawn of his twelfth Big Loop. It was six of the seven crowns of Sky-INEOS. “We know what the Tour is like. The first week is crazy, with cobblestones, stages that promise to bewind … it’s about crossing it safely and seeing where we get to“, he warns. And to add, innocently:”This first week doesn’t suit Adam as much (Yachts) and Danny (Martínez). “

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This scary start seems a little more in line with the “G”. The inaugural time trial, 13.2 km long in Copenhagen, may allow it to be located. The sequel has something to please a rider who has already finished in the “Top 10” of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. “If it doesn’t fall, it won’t be far from being a yellow jersey during the first part of the Tour, with a stopwatch, the hard stage of Dunkirk, the bridge, the cobblestones …“, considers Nicolas Fritsch.

All this with one condition, then: not to leave any feathers on the asphalt. A condition that Thomas has struggled to meet in recent seasons, hence his relative period of scarcity. In 2020, the Giro could have been an interesting field of expression for him, who had just finished 2nd in Tirreno-Adriatico, or even 4th in the World Time Trial. But a fall while rolling on a can, before the actual start of the 3rd stage, compromised everything.

“It’s more fish than clumsy”

In 2021, an amazing gadin during the Tour de Romandia, with the handlebar sliding between his frozen fingers, kept his “legend” in this area. At the time, the Tour de France was painful in this area, again, and Thomas (41st) was not very helpful for Richard Carapaz (3rd). “It is more fish than clumsy. He’s not Van der Poel, but he’s one of 10% super technical guys“, thinks Nicolas Fritsch, supporting argument.

Surprise: Geraint Thomas fell less than 50 meters from the finish line

When you can do team chases at the Olympics and therefore “fall” an inch from your teammate’s rear wheel, at 65 km / h, you can be considered a technician.“, he recalls, while the falls that upset destinies are by no means the prerogative of Thomas. Primoz Roglic, another candidate for the yellow robe, has experienced at least as many setbacks of the same kind as his British opponent.

“Running for the podium,” only?

So where to place Geraint Thomas in the caste of potential winners? “He is in the race for the podium. “Wiggins suggests cautiously, despite the confidence Thomas inspires in him: “I can’t underestimate him because I’ve seen the quality of this man since he was a youngest“Everything seems to indicate that he is, at best, the third man in the equation … which is already remarkable.”You may not be as scared as Pogacar or Roglic. “admits “Wiggo”.

Fritsch sees the two Slovenes “one step above“by Geraint Thomas. But”if they stick, they can win the Tour, because in my opinion they won’t stick“The 36-year-old Welshman is the number one sport in his eyes:”Jonas Vingegaard is special, we can put him at the level of Pogacar and Roglic, according to the Jumbo-Visma strategy … But behind him, Thomas is in the front row. Conclusion, in the form of a warning: “Here it is, old Geraint.”. “

Geraint Thomas (Sky), drinking the traditional glass of champagne reserved for the Tour winner, during the 21st and final stage

Credit: Getty Images

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