Geraint Thomas has a fighting mentality the likes of which Sir Bradley Wiggins has never seen before, and that will fire him to a second Tour de France title, writes Paul Eddison.
Wiggins, Britain's first Tour winner, has given his backing to Thomas to regain the crown he won in 2018, following some impressive recent form.
The Welshman recently won the Tour de Romandie, his first stage race victory since riding the yellow jersey into Paris three years ago.
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And while Slovenian pair Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic, who finished first and second on last year's Tour, go into the race as favourites, Wiggins believes that Thomas can get the better of them.
He said: "He can go to a level of deepness that I have never seen anyone do before. He is not fazed by crashes, I think his squad is going to be super strong around him. When he wants something, he'll get it. That's what will beat them. He's a better competitor than the others. He's got the experience, he's wiser. He's tasted success and defeat and I just think that he's poised to win his second Tour.
"I watched him at the Tour of Romandie which is a big mid-season race, and his demeanour, his body language, everything about him, he looked in control. There's a maturity about him this year that I've not seen before. He's got kids now, he's at a ripe age in cycling.
"He's got over the hysteria and fame side of things from a few years ago and I feel like there's something about to happen with him. It's an Olympic year as well, with it being delayed, I think this will probably his defining year."
Wiggins enjoyed his own annus mirabilis nine years ago, following up his Tour de France victory with Olympic gold in the time trial at London 2012.
And while Thomas can push himself as deep as anyone Wiggins has seen, Britain's most successful-ever Olympian was never one to shirk the hard work either.
Wiggins, who will be part of the presentation team for the Eurosport and discovery+ live coverage of the Tokyo Olympic Games, explained: "There were moments of individual doubt. Everyone is quite insecure because you constantly doubt yourself, it's the fine tightrope you walk. I don't think it would be normal if you didn't have that. You are always looking over your shoulder at the next person who could take your spot. It's what drives you, it becomes a very brutal existence.
"I would go out on my bike (in those moments of doubt). I'd do something that I didn't think anyone else was doing. I'd do an hour longer, always try and put in more because that was the only way you could reassure yourself.
"When you're on an Olympic final on the line, you want to know that you've done every session, you haven't flinched once. That's what kept me going, out on Christmas day on my bike. I remember being there with the kids thinking I don't want to go out but when you are on that Olympic line and doubting yourself, asking 'have I done enough?', you think of all those things that you ticked the boxes for, knowing that you've done everything. That gave you the reassurance and the confidence going into the Olympic finals, knowing you have worked harder than anyone else. That was how we did it."
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