Geraint Thomas won’t be making any concessions for Richie Porte at Paris-Nice on Sunday where the pair will square off in a race title bid for the first time.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
6 Mar 2016 - 7:59 PM 

The 29-year-old finished fifth overall after famously assisting the Australian to victory there last season but has taken on leadership at Team Sky this year as Porte has done at his new squad BMC.

The in-form Thomas has identified ‘pure climbers’ Porte and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) as chief rivals in the eight-day race that begins with a 6.1km prologue, which should suit the Olympic team pursuit champion.

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“You focus on your own race but it will be strange racing against Richie,” Thomas said.

“Richie, along with Contador, going into it is one of the favourites. He’s won the race twice anyway and Contador has done what he has done so those two stand out for sure. I don’t really know the rest of the field to be honest but I think, especially early on, we want to stick to our plan and race as best we can.

“For sure when it comes to the crucial GC days Richie and Contador are going to be the guys to watch and they’re the guys that are going to be attacking. When it comes to the mountaintops hopefully I’ll be there around guys like [them].”

Thomas has already got the measure of Contador once this season besting the Spaniard to overall honours at the Volta ao Algarve last month, around when Porte managed an injury at the Tour of Oman and haemorrhaged time.

“I didn’t know what to expect going in there with a bit of a slower start to the year,” he said of Algarve.

“It was a great start and with the calibre of riders there was good for confidence but obviously … a lot of people are going to be getting a lot better particularly now when it’s the first real solid week of racing.

“I think Paris-Nice will be another really good test. There’s a strong field again and certainly a demanding eight days in front of us, along with the weather. I think we just get stuck in and treat every day as a one-day almost.”

Paris-Nice will be broadcast live on SBS2 and streamed online at Cycling Central from Sunday 6 March - 13 March (check your local guides).

Thomas is placing a greater emphasis on stage racing this year, over the spring classics, with the ultimate design to improve his own standing at the Tour de France while aiding teammate and defending champion Chris Froome in July.

“I want to get stuck into every race I do and try and get as much out of it as possible because come the Tour [de France] it will all be about helping Froomey,” he said. “Obviously I’ll try to not do quite so much early on but it’s still about Froomey and winning the Tour, so take as many chances as I can before that.”

Newfound leadership serves as additional motivation for Paris-Nice that Thomas has history with. The penultimate day has not favoured the Welshman, who, with Porte, crashed there in 2015 and in 2014, which that year cruelly ended his shot at the yellow jersey he had previously worn.

“I know this [race] the best and I’ve been close it’s just a couple of crashes have put an end to any podium chance so maybe third time lucky,” he said.

Sky has assembled a strong team to aid Thomas in his endeavour. Classics specialists in Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard as well as Ian Boswell and Ben Swift will be influential in the undulating stages as will Mikel Nieve, Nicolas Roche and Sergio Henao, who will have a free role, in the mountains.

“We’ve got a good team for all terrains and all weather,” Thomas said.

“I’m looking forward to it.”