Egan Bernal showed strong form on Monday, winning the mountainous penultimate stage of the Route d’Occitanie to take the overall lead, as Ineos team-mate Chris Froome, with whom he is vying for Tour de France leadership, finished over five minutes back. It is the duo’s first race since lockdown.
However, it is another member of Ineos, Geraint Thomas, whom Sir Bradley Wiggins fancies to win the Tour this year.
Speaking on his Eurosport podcast, Wiggins said that Thomas, the 2018 champion, would have beaten eventual winner Bernal in last year’s race had the weather not intervened. And he is backing his old team-mate to do so this year.
“I think had we had the stage to Tignes completed last year, I think Bernal would have cracked and Geraint would have won the Tour that day,” Wiggins said. “Now you’d have to say, because Bernal was allowed to win the Tour de France last year, with Geraint as defending champion, the same should apply the other way around this year and Bernal is not granted that automatic right to defend the race.
“So, I actually think Geraint will win the Tour this year, no question about it. I don’t think there is an argument within that team.” Thomas makes his return at the Tour de l’Ain from Aug 7-9.
Wiggins added that Froome, who is leaving Ineos for Israel Start-Up Nation at the end of this year, was still capable of winning another Tour, and should be selected by Ineos but that this year might come too early. Froome is still working his way back from a career-threatening crash at last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné.
“I would guess that Chris won’t be at the level this year that would be good enough to win the Tour,” Wiggins said. “I think it might take another year, particularly with the lack of racing.
“But who knows with Chris. I would never put anything past him. But he does fit into the [Ineos] team for me.”
Froome, 35, appeared to be working for Bernal as a domestique at the Route d’Occitanie on Monday.
Bernal, 23, finished Monday's 163.5km third stage to the Col de Beyrède 10 seconds ahead of Ineos team-mate Pavel Sivakov and has a 14-second overall lead from Sivakov, with Froome 32nd.