Tour de France 2019: Geraint Thomas feels 'less pressure' defending title

Geraint Thomas sips champagne
Geraint Thomas sipped champagne on the processional final stage of last year's Tour

Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas says he feels under no pressure as he prepares to defend his title, despite a difficult build-up to the race.

Welshman Thomas, 33, crashed out of last month's Tour de Suisse - his final preparation race - and was forced to abandon the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in March with stomach problems.

"I've been super-motivated and pushing to try to win it again, because it was an amazing feeling winning last year, and I want to experience that again," Thomas told 5 Live's Bespoke podcast.

The 106th edition of the three-week race starts in Brussels on Saturday, 6 July, with the traditional finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday, 28 July.

"I don't feel pressure to prove that my win wasn't a fluke, or whatever negative angle people want to take from it," Thomas continued.

"It's actually less pressure. If a rider hasn't quite fulfilled their potential in Grand Tours they might be too eager, to attack too soon or too much, to get too emotional, but I think I can be more chilled, more calculated.

"Some people are saying I'll be a one-hit wonder, and all that stuff. It's a pretty good hit to have, if you're going to have one."

With Chris Froome out of the Tour after breaking his leg, hip and neck in a high-speed crash last month, Thomas will roll out of the Grand Depart in Brussels on Saturday as joint leader of Team Ineos with Egan Bernal.

The 22-year-old Colombian missed the Giro d'Italia after a training crash of his own but has won both the Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse stage races this year.

A year ago, Froome and Thomas battled for the race lead before the Welshman took control, and some have wondered whether a split leadership will cause problems on the road.

Thomas said: "I think it will work really well - it gives us two cards. It keeps everyone else guessing.

"If I don't feel great, I'm not going to tell anyone outside the team, and Egan can be our 'A' card.

"If I'm feeling great, it gives me an amazing guy to support me. It's similar to last year really. It feels like a great position to be in.

"My form is good. My training camp in Tenerife that finished in early June was one of the best I've ever done, and I felt good in the run-up to Suisse.

"Racing and training is different, but physically I'm feeling good and mentally I'm raring to go."

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Geraint Thomas: Inside the mind of a cyclist during a high-speed crash

Thomas was a surprise winner of the yellow jersey a year ago, but proved his strength with two stage wins in two days in the Alps, becoming the first Briton to win atop the iconic Alpe d'Huez.

He has ridden all the big mountain stages of this year's Tour in advance, and is sanguine about his chances of repeating those feats.

"It's about getting to the start line in the best shape I can, having done everything I can," he said.

"It's obviously been a bit more up and down this year. I haven't finished a race a couple of times, and it's certainly been a challenge, and totally different.

"But I'm happy with the shape I'm in and how I've tackled the year. From now on in, you get on the bike and race as well as you can.

"What will be, will be. I haven't really put a finishing place on it.

"To win the Tour you get some difficult moments even when you're feeling good. You can have a bad climb where you're not feeling in super shape, and you just need to grit your teeth and get through that.

"Just remember that if you're hurting, so is everyone else. It's just that suffering and getting through those hard points and coming out the other side.

"You get into uncharted territory then. You find yourself winning on Alpe d'Huez in the yellow jersey, and the confidence you get from that is massive.

"That's the key thing - to be able to suffer and stay there and deal with it."

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