Who Will Challenge Geraint Thomas & Team Sky Next Year?
Geraint Thomas won the 2018 Tour de France on Sunday, earning the biggest victory of his career so far. The 32-year-old Welshman finished nearly two minutes ahead of Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin and 2:24 ahead of his Sky teammate Chris Froome in the General Classification.
Team Sky has now won six of the last seven Tours – first with Bradley Wiggins in 2012; then with Froome in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017; and, now, with Thomas. This last win is perhaps the most remarkable, given that Thomas’ previously best Grand Tour finish was 15th place in both 2015 and 2016.
Froome had entered the race this year aiming for a rare fifth Tour de France title. But, perhaps too tired from winning the Giro d’Italia in May, he fell short. After Thomas won Stage 11, took the yellow jersey, and defended it with yet another Alpine stage win the following day, Sky’s leadership was called into question. But Thomas held onto the yellow through the Pyrenees, and Froome took a step back to start riding for his teammate. By the end of Stage 17, Thomas’ victory was all but secured.
Now, the question is: What happens next year?
The 2019 Tour should be one of the more open in recent memory, with both Thomas and Froome returning for Team Sky. And the second-placed Tom Dumoulin is already saying that he will focus all of his efforts on winning the Tour next year.
Don’t overlook fourth-place finisher Primož Roglič. The Slovenian has only raced three Grand Tours, but he’s won stages in all three. As he gains more experience, we have to wonder if his ceiling will continue to rise. A proven all-rounder who can both climb and time trial with the best, he’s a serious threat to win the Tour one day.
In the end, it will come down to the roster Sky puts together. If the team can retain (or strengthen) a lineup that includes some of the best riders in the sport – including climbing sensation Egan Bernal, one of the Tour’s most promising riders this year – there might be little the competition can do other than fight for second- and third-place overall.
Let’s hope the tactics employed by Movistar and LottoNL-Jumbo late in this year’s race – sending riders up the road early in to isolate Sky’s leaders in the finale – encourage them next year. If they take a similar approach earlier in the race, it could yield a different result.
For now though, we’ll wait for October and the announcement of next year’s course. At that point, we’ll have a better idea as to which riders have the best chance of winning the 106th edition of the Tour.
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