Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift today declared they’re both racing for the win in tomorrow’s National Championship road race in Stamfordham, but made it clear they won’t sacrifice the team’s chances of retaining the title.
Speaking at this afternoon’s pre-race press conference, reigning champion Thomas and rising star Swift were happy to joke with each other, yet insisted they won’t be so friendly on the bike tomorrow afternoon.
Swift, who will start his first Tour de France next Saturday, is relishing the anomaly that the Nationals bring up.
“It’s the one time we get to race our team-mates,” he said.
“It’s like any other race we do to some extent, in that we’ll work together (at times) but we’ll race it too. We just won’t out-do each other.”
Swift added: “We’ve got a lot of guys in the race who could win, so potentially it is our race to lose.”
Looking ahead to the Tour, he praised Thomas’ achievements in the GB colours last July.
“If I could have the jersey for the first time in my first Tour, that would be perfect.
“Geraint did it proud in last year’s race and it will be nice to see the same happen again – I just think he needs to share it.”
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Unfortunately for Swift, Thomas is not going to relinquish his title easily.
Responding to whether or not he could afford to be selfish, he replied: “For sure. It’s the nationals. Everyone wants to win it. It’s about individuals as well as the team.
“Like Swifty said, we cannot work against each other, but, when it comes down to it, we’ve got to use our numbers.”
Peter Kennaugh has been ill, and therefore may not ride, but Sky should start with at least eight riders tomorrow – a level of strength no other team can match.
Because of this, Thomas knows that they cannot afford to lose.
“We’ll get slated if we don’t win,” he stated, half-jokingly, half-seriously.
With many people expecting another Sky podium lock-out, Thomas played down the chances of repeated domination.
“It’s not just a race between us. there’s a lot of other guys out there remember. All the top pros seem to be going well; Adam Blythe has been strong, and Cav? We’re not going to take him to the line. Good luck to him!”
Naming Endura and Rapha-Condor-Sharp are ones to watch, Thomas ended by saying that his team will have to work hard to win tomorrow.
“I think last year the course made it easier for us; it made the selection. You can hide a bit and bluff your way to the finish here. It’s going to be flat out for 200km.”