Geraint Thomas wants win in first Tour de France stage

Geraint Thomas say that Team Sky aim to put down an early marker in Saturday's opening stage of the Tour de France.

The 25-year-old is one of Sky's nine-man squad that aims to put team leader Bradley Wiggins on the podium when the Tour ends in Paris on 24 July.

The first 191 kilometres of the gruelling 3,430.5km race take place in the Vendee, on France's Atlantic coast, with a 23km time trial on Sunday.

"I think we're going to attack it, for sure," Thomas told BBC Sport Wales.

"It depends who the leader is on the day. Obviously we'll be looking after Brad, but for the actual finish I think Rigoberto [Uran] or myself, or Swifty [Ben Swift], we've got a few cards to play.

"We're just going to race hard and try and win the stage for sure, but if not at least we'll be close and then when it comes to the team time-trial we'll be in with a real shout to take the [leader's yellow] jersey then."

The 2011 Tour will begin on the picturesque Passage du Gois, a road that links the island of Noirmoutier to the mainland and is submerged twice a day at high tide.

The route then hugs the coast before heading inland and finishing with a small climb towards Mont des Alouettesexternal-link at 232m.

"I've got a lot better chance than if there was a flat finish but we'll have to see how it goes, a lot can happen in the last few kilometres," Thomas added.

The 25-year-old Olympic and world team pursuit gold medallist lost his British National Championships road race title to Wiggins in Northumberland last weekend.

But Thomas says that despite that result, the performances of his Team Sky colleagues over the past few weeks bode well for Tour success.

Thomas, second in stage three of last year's Tour, won a first major pro title at the Tour of Bavaria in May and was second to Wiggins at the Nationals.

"I felt good in the race and I have done the last few weeks," Thomas said.

"It's been a good run-in really, for Brad as well, for the whole team - everyone seems to be hitting form at the right time and we're all excited about it."

Thomas became the first Welshman to ride at the Tour de France in 40 years when he made his debut in 2007.

He wore the white jersey for best young rider between stage three and stage six of the 2010 Tour de France before finishing 67th overall - almost two hours behind eventual winner Alberto Contador.

Wiggins, meanwhile, finished 24th in Team Sky's debut last year and will again spearhead the British outfit's effort.

While Thomas admits there will be gruelling days ahead in the next three weeks, he says there is now an expectation to be challenging for stages, jerseys and medals - whereas in the past there may have been simply a hope of just completing the Tour.

"The first time for sure, I never even expected to finish to be honest... it's still a massive achievement to finish but we're more thinking about the actual results and the racing now rather than just trying to get round," Thomas said.

"Everyone has one bad day, well most of us anyway although maybe not the best guys. Everyone just has that one day when it really hurts and you just feel really weak.

"Maybe you haven't eaten enough the day before and you're paying the price for that, or you've been working hard the first couple of weeks.

"Yeah, you always get that one day when you just want it to be over and you can't wait to get to that finish line.

"You finish it [the Tour] totally drained. Three weeks, and every day is like a one-day race as well because it's so big, the Tour.

"It's so important to everyone and all the teams, especially if the team hasn't got a result by the end it turns into a race every day.

"It's like nothing else. You get the racing beforehand for the conditioning and to get you ready for it, but once you're in there that's it, there's nothing else like it."

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