Geraint Thomas believes he will go to the Tour de France as co-leader of Team Sky, rather than in his usual role of Chris Froome’s trusted lieutenant.
The Welsh rider gave further evidence he is ready for a higher status at this year’s Tour by winning the Criterium du Dauphine at the weekend.
Thomas has described his victory in the eight-day race as the biggest of his career and the 32-year-old now insists he will go into next month’s Tour on an equal footing with Froome, rather than as one of the champion’s side-riders.
“Hopefully at the Tour I won’t have to do too much work early on for Froomey,” said Thomas.
“The main thing, though, is to get there in the best shape possible and we’ll go from there.”
Team Sky have never previously started the Tour with co-leaders, but Thomas added: “While this will probably be the first time we’ve gone into the Tour with two leaders, we’ve obviously done that at the Giro before, and not only last year when [Mikel] Landa and me were joint leaders.
“A lot can happen during the Tour, and especially during the first week this year, so having two guys who are hopefully in good enough shape to fight for the overall is a bonus.
“We’ll take it day by day and see where we are at the end of the first week. The key thing for me is that if I’m not in good enough shape then I’m not going to have that chance.”
Defending Tour champion Froome, who skipped this year’s Dauphine after winning the Giro d’Italia in May is set to chase a joint record fifth title in July
But the four-time Tour winner is involved in an ongoing anti-doping case after giving an adverse result in a test at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana.
Froome has asthma and received permission from cycling chiefs to use legal asthma drug salbutamol at the Vuelta.
However, he was found to have double the allowed level of the drug in his urine. Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, are still investigating with Froome denying any wrongdoing.
Thomas added: “I took the approach that July is the target and to try to get there in the best shape possible.
“It’s been a good year so far, I’ve been enjoying it and this race has been really good so far bar the silly little crash in the prologue.
“Without the boys here I would not have won the Dauphine. I get to ride the races I want and I am a leader in most of them.
“So hopefully we can get all that sorted before the Tour de France.”
Thomas is next due to race in the National Road Race championships in Northumberland where he is down to do the time trial (29 June) and the road race (1 July).