Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas standing on the podium when the 2016 Tour de France ends in Paris next month would be “more than a dream”, according to Team Sky’s Nicolas Portal.
Sky is supporting Thomas as a separate leader in the Tour this July after the Welshman spent years working for others and leading the Classics team. Head sports director, Portal laughed when asked if it would be like in 2012, where Sky had two cyclists on the podium with Bradley Wiggins winning and Froome placing second.
“I’d like that, even if ‘G’ is in the top five, that’d be great, but we have to be realistic,” Portal told Cycling Weekly. “I think Alejandro Valverde will be tired, but there’s Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, Richie Porte, Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet… there are many rivals.
“He’s never done a top five or top 10 in a Grand Tour. It’s step by step for ‘G’. It will be more than a dream if we have two there on the podium in the Tour.”
The British super team, however, is pushing ahead with Plan G – developing Thomas into a Tour de France contender. Portal just returned with Sky’s Tour cyclists from a two-week training camp at altitude in Tenerife and before heading home, he took a select group – Froome, Thomas and Wout Poels – to preview the Tour’s Pyrenean stages.
“The atmosphere was good and we can talk openly,” Portal said. “They all have the same ideas and are on the same page.”
The idea came this winter: take Thomas out of the Classics team and put him on the general classification path. Instead of racing the entire range of Classics, Thomas parachuted in from stage races and altitude training camps for only Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.
Sky then supported him to win the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice. Next week, he will lead the team in the Tour de Suisse before going to the Tour de France start in Normandy.
“First of all, we lost Richie Porte this year [to BMC]. We have spot just behind Chris, [Thomas] is the watcher for Froomey. If he needs to help, he’s the last man and will sacrifice himself. Of course, he’s also a plan B,” Portal added.
“We used him so much, he’s so good at everything. He became tired because of that. We saw that and wanted to give him a chance like Richie Porte had.
“For him, he will try to be with Froomey all the time, save his legs, and the rest of the guys will try to do the job for the entire day. We hope to keep ‘G’ fresh.
“Without a doubt, Froome is a plan A, but we also want to help ‘G’, not use him. It will be good for him to see how much further he can go.”