Motivated Geraint Thomas relishing the stiff Tour de France challenge that lies ahead

Geraint Thomas is confident he is over the blip which saw him distanced by key rivals in the Pyrenean stages of the Tour de France over the weekend.

France's Julian Alaphilippe wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey rides in the pack with Britain's Geraint Thomas, center, right, and France's Thibaut Pinot, left, on Sunday. Picture: AP/Thibault Camus

Although Thomas was able to cut the deficit to Julian Alaphilippe in the yellow jersey on Sunday, Thibaut Pinot picked up significant time over the weekend and Thomas has twice seen his rivals leave him behind as he admitted he was not feeling 100 per cent.

But as riders enjoyed a rest day yesterday, Thomas said: “Obviously on the Tourmalet I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent but it was more just a fuelling thing over a few days rather than anything else.

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“Yesterday I finished really strongly, so it’s not an issue.”

Great Britain's Geraint Thomas (L) attends a press conference in Nimes, with team principal Dave Bralisford, centre. Picture: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

Among the riders to get away from Thomas on both of the previous two stages was his young Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal, and after Sunday’s stage 15 Thomas said he was between “a rock and a hard place” as he could not make a late move himself without helping Alaphilippe close down on the Colombian.

But the Welshman played down any concerns about their status as co-leaders and said he had told Bernal to ride his own race on the Prat d’Albis due to concerns over his own condition.

“We stick together,” he said. “Yesterday I said on the radio I didn’t feel great coming into the last climb, but as it turned out I did feel great at the top.

“The main thing is going into the Alps I feel motivated to try and finish this Tour off well.”

With Pinot emerging as the strongest man on the climbs, he looks like the man to beat in the Alps but Thomas said he would have no qualms going head-to-head with a man being roared on by French crowds desperate for a first home winner in 34 years.

“I’d love it, I’d relish it,” he said. “Bring it on.”

This year’s Tour feels like the most open in years, in large part because Ineos – formerly Team Sky – have not been able to dominate their rivals in the way they did in winning six of the previous seven editions. But team principal Sir Dave Brailsford, so accustomed to being in control, insisted that he was enjoying the tactical battle as Alaphilippe’s unexpected presence in the yellow jersey changes the dynamics.

“Nobody is really controlling the race as such,” he said.

“It is way more exciting, but it is more like chess in another sense.

“It’s brilliant fun.”

“We’ve sat here on the second day of a Grand Tour so many times and people say we’ve closed the race down and it’s not been exciting.

“That’s not been the case this time. It’s fun to be involved in one of most exciting editions in a long time.”