Chris Froome insists there is no inter-team rivalry at the Tour de France

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Chris Froome insists Team Sky’s leadership at the Tour de France will be decided on the road.

Former Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins has claimed the team would have a “a real problem” if Geraint Thomas took the yellow jersey ahead of team-mate Froome.

Sky have talked up the benefits of having Thomas second overall, 43 seconds behind leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and 59 ahead of Froome after nine stages.

Though Sky have reiterated that Froome remains the team leader, Thomas has so far been given licence to race for himself and 2012 winner Wiggins feels it could cause trouble.

“This is where it gets difficult, as we hit first mountain stage,” Wiggins said on his Eurosport show. “If Geraint stays where he is and takes the yellow jersey they’ve got a real problem on their hands.”

Froome played down any talk of friction after finishing a ride on the Tour’s first rest day.

“I think the race, as always, will decide (leadership),” the four-time Tour winner said. “For us it’s fantastic to have different cards to play.

“If you look at all the GC riders, ‘G’ is right up there. It’s for other teams to attack us now.”

Thomas added that it was speculative to discuss it before a single mountain stage.

“I think it’s a bit early to be talking about that,” said Thomas, who enjoyed four days in yellow at the start of last year’s Tour.

“Maybe if I’m still right there after Alpe d’Huez (on Thursday), it’s a bit different then. But we haven’t done a proper climb yet. I’m certainly not getting carried away.”

Asked if he had spoken to Froome about it, Thomas added: “We’ve kind of spoken in general about things. And yeah, he’s keen for me to try, if I do have the chance to stay up there. But we’re honest with each other.”

Froome is looking to make history as he seeks a record-equalling fifth Tour win, a fourth successive Grand Tour victory and becoming the first man to do the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998.

But Wiggins said that team principal Sir Dave Brailsford would be “in the ears” of both riders telling them they can win the Tour.

“Does Dave B come in and do his usual and be quite divisive and get in each other’s ear and kind of keep them both motivated for the same goal and there be a natural selection?” said Wiggins, who was angered by a perceived leadership threat from Froome in 2012.

“Dave will certainly be in both of their ears and be telling them they can both win it, as a way of motivating them, as a way of playing these cards deep into the race and let the natural selections come in to play.”

Wiggins added of Brailsford: “He’s quite self-serving. For him, it’s about the team winning, it’s not about the individuals or the characters.”

Brailsford did not speak to the media on Monday.

Riding as his domestique, Froome finished second to Wiggins in 2012, and memorably appeared to attack his team leader on stage 11 before sitting up and waiting for him – a moment interpreted as Froome showing he was strong enough to win on his own.

But Froome rejected any comparison between that race and this, saying: “It’s a totally different situation (to 2012).”

Thomas could feasibly be in yellow by Tuesday evening as stage 10 takes the peloton over four categorised climbs in 158.5km of racing between Annecy and Le Grand-Bornand, territory which does not suit Van Avermaet.

“We’ll see how these next few days go really,” said the 32-year-old, who is expected to sign a new three-year deal with the team. “There’s no point me doing anything unnecessary.”

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Chris Froome primed for fifth title and other key questions ahead of the second week of Tour de France

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There has been no shortage of drama in the first week of the Tour de France with sprint battles between young and old, struggles along the cobbles to Roubaix, Chris Froome yet to show his sharpness and Peter Sagan shining in the green jersey once again after two stage wins.

Here, we take a look at five key questions ahead of the second week of the race.

Who is in the battle for the yellow jersey?

Greg van Avermaet is in control of the yellow jersey, holding a 43-second lead over Geraint Thomas, but with the mountain stages of the Tour kicking into gear on Tuesday, the Belgian is likely to drop down the overall classifications.

Philippe Gilbert, Bob Jungels and Alejandro Valverde complete the top five, with defending champion Chris Froome sitting in eighth – 1 minute and 43 seconds behind van Avermaet.

At this early stage of the Tour, the General Classification is misleading with many of the riders set to suffer in the mountains this week, providing an opportunity for the likes of Thomas, Froome, Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali and Tom Dumoulin to show their true climbing potential.

With Thomas in a great overall position, Team Sky have two GC options as we gear up for a pivotal week of the Tour.

Is Froome primed for a fifth Tour de France title?

Froome is still the overwhelming favourite to lift a fifth title, however we have seen little signs of his sharpness yet on the relatively flat stages of the first week.

A crash on the opening stage in Fontenay-le-Comte could have been a lot worse, but there is no doubt that he will peak in time for the gruelling climbs over the next two weeks.

The 33-year-old is eighth in the GC, but his work really only starts from Tuesday when the Team Sky star tackles the tough route from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand.

Sagan is the man but who are the new sprinters shining?

Coming into this year’s Tour, Peter Sagan had won the green jersey in five out of the last six Tours – and will most likely seal it for a sixth time later this month.

But Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish – with a mammoth 44 stage wins between them – were also expected to challenge the Slovakian but both have made little impact so far.

In their absence of form, Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen have emerged as rising stars – with two stage wins each and the potential to be threats in the years to come.

Colombian Gaviria – at 23 – looks like a real gem to contend at future Grand Tours.

Will we see the cobble stages in future Tours?

A great watch for fans, but not for the peloton. Stage nine to Roubaix served the Tour too much risk of injury for the riders, with the demanding cobble sections of the route causing GC riders to suffer mechanical issues on the surface.

Froome, Thomas, Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran all suffered falls and loss of time during the stage, with GC contender Richie Porte forced to withdraw from the race due to a broken collar bone.

The Tour officials need to realise it’s a three-week, 21-stage race, not a one-stage race that places riders in often chaotic circumstances.

Implementing cobble sections into a stage is a step too far for future Tours, with only 50 per cent of the riders having little to no experience in navigating these dangerous conditions.

A definite review needs to conducted before the 2019 route is confirmed.

Is this the end of Mark Cavendish?

It sounds like a harsh thing to say that we are seeing signs of the demise of a man who has sprinted to 30 Tour de France stage wins.

But in truth, it has been a torrid week for the 33-year-old Manxman. His Dimension Data team isn’t firing and he looks to have lost that old edge we are so used to seeing light up Tour de France sprints.

There was signs of life in his legs in stage seven (10th) and stage eight (eighth) when he challenged for the win but faded in the final metres.

It is clear the ambition is still there, but with only 34 days of racing this year due to injury, his preparation for Le Tour hasn’t been ideal.

Every year he is a year older, so it is unlikely he will beat Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins with the emergence of younger, quicker riders likes Groenewegen, Gaviria and Caleb Ewan coming through.

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Team Sky could have a real problem if Geraint Thomas takes yellow jersey, says Bradley Wiggins

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Sir Bradley Wiggins has claimed Team Sky will have a “real problem on their hands” if Geraint Thomas takes the yellow jersey in the Tour de France ahead of Chris Froome.

Thomas sits second to Greg Van Avermaet in the general classification after nine stages, 43 seconds off yellow and 59 seconds ahead of Froome as the race heads towards the Alps.

Though Sky have insisted Froome remains the team leader, Thomas has been given licence to race for himself through the first part of the Tour and 2012 winner Wiggins foresees trouble if he remains ahead.

“This is where it gets difficult, as we hit first mountain stage,” the ex-Sky rider said on Eurosport’s The Bradley Wiggins Show. “If Geraint stays where he is and takes the yellow jersey, they’ve got a real problem on their hands.”

Wiggins said that Sir Dave Brailsford would be “in the ears” of both riders telling them they can win the Tour in order to keep them motivated, suggesting the team principal can be “divisive” and “self-serving” at such times.

“Does Dave B come in and do his usual and be quite divisive and get in each other’s ear and kind of keep them both motivated for the same goal and there be a natural selection?

“Dave will certainly be in both of their ears and be telling them they can both win it, as a way of motivating them, as a way of playing these cards deep in to the race and let the natural selections come in to play.”

Wiggins added of Brailsford: “He’s quite self-serving. For him, it’s about the team winning – it’s not about the individuals or the characters. He will always be in those riders’ ears constantly, and he has been up till now as you can see.”

Speaking after a rest day training ride on Monday, Froome and Thomas downplayed the situation.

“I think the race, as always, will decide (leadership),” Froome said. “For us, it’s fantastic to have different cards to play. Movistar have come here with three leading riders (Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde), and with only one GC contender it becomes difficult to cover all three.

“If you look at all the GC riders, ‘G’ is right up there. It’s for other teams to attack us now.”

Thomas added that it was speculative to even discuss it before a single mountain stage.

“I think it’s a bit early to be talking about that,” he said. “Maybe if I’m still right there after Alpe d’Huez (on Thursday), it’s a bit different then. But we haven’t done a proper climb yet. I’m certainly not getting carried away.”

Asked if he had spoken to Froome about it, Thomas said: “We’ve kind of spoken in general about things. And yeah, he’s keen for me to try… If I do have the chance to stay up there, to let me have that, you know? But we’re honest with each other.”

Brailsford was not present at Sky’s media access on Monday.

Riding as his domestique, Froome finished second to Wiggins in 2012, and famously appeared to attack his team leader on La Toussuire on stage 11 before sitting up and waiting for him – a moment interpreted as Froome showing he was strong enough to win on his own.

But Froome rejected any comparison between that race and this.

“He (Thomas) is riding extremely well and, like I said earlier, it just puts us in an even better place,” he said. “It’s a totally different situation (to 2012).”

The Tour will head straight into the mountains after Monday’s rest day, with Tuesday’s stage 10 taking the peloton over four categorised climbs in 158.5km of racing between Annecy and Le Grand-Bornand.

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