Chris Froome insisted he would be willing to sacrifice his chances of a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title to help teammate Geraint Thomas achieve victory.
Thomas and Froome sit first and second in the general classification heading into the final week of the Tour, with Thomas one minute and 39 seconds ahead of his teammate.
Team Sky – and Thomas – had continually insisted that Froome was their team leader, but the tone has shifted in recent days and Froome on Monday said he would be happy to help Thomas if necessary.
“As long as there is a Team Sky rider on the top step of the podium in Paris, I’m happy,” Froome said.
Asked directly if he would sacrifice his hopes of a fifth Tour crown to help Thomas, Froome simply said: “Yes.”
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Froome had said before the Tour he was aiming to come good in the third week, following his efforts in winning the Giro d’Italia in May, but, asked if he had identified places where he might attack and make up time on Thomas, he dismissed the question.
“All this talk of attacking or not attacking … we’re in an amazing position, we’re one and two,” he said. “It’s not up to us to be attacking. It’s for all the other riders in the peloton to make up time on us and dislodge us from the position we’re in.”
There are now only six days until the Tour reaches Paris, but Thomas said he was trying not to shift his mindset despite holding yellow.
“Obviously the closer you get, the more you want to stay on the podium, but I’m still not really thinking about it,” he said. “I’m thinking day by day. The dream was to be in with a shot of a podium and that’s still on the cards. I’m trying to keep the same mindset.”
Thomas and Froome may be in a strong position on the podium, but Team Sky were hurt on Sunday night when Gianni Moscon was disqualified from the race for punching Fortuneo-Samsic rider Elie Gesbert early on stage 15 to Carcassonne.
“It’s disappointing, but there’s nothing we can do,” Thomas said. “What’s done is done.”