CARCASSONNE, France (Reuters) - Riders often say they will let their legs do the talking, but as Geraint Thomas is a week away from a Tour de France title, he believes mental strength will play an equally important part.
The Team Sky rider leads fellow Briton and defending champion Chris Froome by one minute 39 seconds heading into the second rest day before a block of racing in the Pyrenees, with Dutchman Tom Dumoulin in third place 1:50 off the pace.
Welshman Thomas has no reference on a three-week race and he has been insisting he could ‘lose 10 minutes’ on a bad day in the mountains, but his recent form suggests he can keep the yellow jersey all the way to Paris.
“Like I’ve said, who knows what’s around the corner, so (it is) each day as it comes,” Thomas told a news conference on Sunday after a smooth ride in the 15th stage between Millau and Carcassonne.
“It’s a battle with the little voice in your head who can tell you to just go easy for a bit,” he added.
“You need to stay strong, it’s 50-50 with your head and legs. For the moment it seems to be OK. Every day is a bonus for me.”
Thomas won two mountain stages, including the queen alpine stage at the top of the Alpe d’Huez, to take and consolidate the overall lead as team mate Froome appeared slightly less in form after winning the Giro d’Italia in May.
While the atmosphere within Team Sky seems to be peaceful between the two leaders — unlike in 2012 when Froome and eventual winner Bradley Wiggins were at odds — the British outfit has had to face boos and jeers from the French fans.
Sky’s domination, with five Tour titles in the last six editions, has been reminiscent of disgraced Lance Armstrong’s U.S. postal team in the early 2000s and the French crowd has been hostile to Dave Brailsford’s squad.
Froome was cleared of a doping offence days before the race started but several banners linking Sky to doping have been seen on the side of the roads, with a fan even slapping the four-times champion on the shoulder on his way up to l’Alpe d’Huez.
“It’s not a nice situation obviously for me,” said Thomas, like Wiggins a former track specialist turned into a grand tour rider.
“It’s the highlight of my career, wearing the yellow jersey is a massive honour, so yes, a bit of negativity around is not nice, but I just want to stay strong in my head and crack on.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge