Team Sky look to Tour de France 2015 as Geraint Thomas signs new two-year deal

The British rider impressed at this year's Tour de France and has been rewarded with a new contract until the end of 2016

Paris

The last barriers for the Tour de France on Sunday – and the women’s La Course race – have yet to be cleared away on the Champs-Élysées, but Team Sky started their planning for next year’s race and beyond by announcing they have re-signed the Welsh rider Geraint Thomas for 2015 and 2016.

Thomas is not – yet – touted as a Grand Tour contender, but he has been an integral part of Sky’s Tour line-up since the team started in 2010. The one exception to that was in 2012, when he concentrated on  taking his second Olympic gold in the Team Pursuit.

This year, Thomas was the one British rider to complete the entire Tour de France, finishing 22nd. The 28-year-old will be back in action this week at the Commonwealth Games, competing in both the time trial and the road race.

Following Sky’s worst Tour since 2010, the team principal Sir Dave Brailsford has been adamant that the squad can turn things around, saying on Sunday: “We won twice, this time round it was not our turn, but we will be back.”

The team’s first major stage racing target, though, will be the Vuelta a España, cycling’s third Grand Tour, which starts on 23 August.

Chris Froome, who retired from the Tour after a crash,  is likely but not certain to lead Sky in Spain, with the rider telling NBC television from California, where he is training: “The first thing is to be in a good condition to race, then I’ll take things from there.”

Froome said he was still riding with a splint to protect his fractured wrist from un-necessary jarring, but when it came to friction between himself and his Sky team-mate Sir Bradley Wiggins if they were to ride the same race again, he said he did not anticipate any problems. “I don’t see why,” Froome told NBC. “We’re both professionals and both on the same team.”

The Vuelta was the first race – in 2011 – where it became painfully clear Sky would have difficulty handling two potential Grand Tour winners on their books. Wiggins was the team leader, but Froome proved stronger in the mountains, taking second on the final podium ahead of the Londoner, who finished third.

In 2012, an exhausted Froome dragged his way to fourth in the Vuelta after riding the Tour flat out as Wiggins’ key lieutenant and finishing as the runner-up in Paris.

This time round, Froome would be far fresher and participation in Spain would be a way for Sky to put a lacklustre Giro and badly below-par Tour behind them.

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Brailsford also confirmed yesterday that there was a possibility Sky would follow the examples of Orica-GreenEdge and Lotto-Belisol in creating their own parallel women’s squad.

He told the BBC he had been talking about the idea “a lot” and pointed out there was a need for greater equality between men’s and women’s cycling.

“We’ve got some brilliant female cyclists,” he said.

His comments came after Sunday’s successful first edition of La Course, which aims to reboot women’s cycling.

One final question for the future is how Sky will remodel their team for next year. Talented Dutchmen Lars Boom and Wilco Kelderman are reportedly possible recruits, as is Astana’s Fabio Aru, third in the Giro. With a third of the squad out of contract, a major overhaul of Sky’s line-up is not out of the question.

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