BREST, France (Reuters) – Geraint Thomas says he expects a chaotic opening week of the Tour de France through the Brittany countryside and believes Ineos Grenadiers could benefit from having so many riders capable of challenging for general classification.
The race gets under way in Brest on Saturday with the first four stages taking place on the lumpy terrain of Brittany.
With an individual time trial on day five, 2018 Tour champion Thomas says the opening days will not be dull.
“The Bretagne stages are up and down and left and right and there could be a bit of rain and wind, so it will be a chaotic first week,” Thomas told reporters at the British team’s pre-race news conference on Thursday.
“Even if gaps won’t necessarily be there there will be guys who have used up a lot of energy and that will have an effect going into the final week.”
There will be no gentle start for the riders this year with the opening stage a 197km route packed with climbs that may not be brutal, but will still provide an early test of the legs.
It might give an early indication of who will be Ineos’s main man, but with Thomas, Richard Carapaz, Richie Porte and last year’s Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart they have multiple options in the hunt for the yellow jersey.
Thomas said that could give them the edge over rivals teams who, as in the case of reigning champion Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates will be putting all their eggs in one basket for the GC battle.
“I think there are pros and cons,” Thomas said. “Four (potential leaders) gives us cards to play later in the race, but then again we can’t ride to protect four riders, it would take too much out of the guys in the first week.”
Ineos Grenadiers boss Dave Brailsford has promised an attacking strategy, allowing his team to race for stage wins rather than to control the pace.
But Thomas, who is yet to sign a new contract, says it will be a matter of “being aggressive at the right moments”.
Having Porte’s vast experience on the road will add to Ineos’s strength after he returned to the team having been part of its former domination when known as Team Sky.
Porte, who finished third last year for Trek-Segafredo, picked out Primoz Roglic as the man Ineos will have to watch.
“How do you combat a guy who can do everything? He’s got guys like (Steven) Kruijswijk, (Sepp) Kuss, and (Wout) van Aert.
“He’s a very complete bike rider but I don’t know how it does it when you look at what’s happened on the last day of the Tour last year, Paris-Nice this year. “He’s got some character to get back up and keep going.”
Roglic was set to win the Tour last year but capitulated on the penultimate day’s time trial and was beaten by fellow Slovenian Pogacar.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)