LONDON (Reuters) - Chris Froome says he would work for British team mate Geraint Thomas at this year’s Olympic Games if his own gold medal ambitions falter in Rio.
Froome is targeting a third Tour de France before setting his sights on an unprecedented two Olympic golds on the twisty streets of Rio de Janeiro in the road race and time trial -- a formidable undertaking even for a rider of his all-round ability.
Welshman Thomas, 29, has started the season in style by retaining the Tour of the Algarve title and will be among the leading contenders for the road race in Rio where they will ride in British colors rather than those of Team Sky.
Thomas usually works tirelessly as one of Froome’s most trusted support riders, as he did so impressively at last year’s Tour de France, but the roles could be reversed in August.
“If G is flying and I‘m struggling, then definitely (I’d support him), absolutely,” Froome, 30, said at Team Sky’s training camp in Mallorca this year.
“I’d be happy playing a role if it meant we could have an Olympic champion.”
Froome, who won a bronze medal in the London 2012 time trial under the flag of his native Kenya, said his close bond with Thomas would help when the pressure builds up during an Olympic road race and personal ambition rises to the surface.
”The key to all of this is communication. Especially with G. We’ve been riding together now for coming up to 10 years,“ he said. ”At the Olympics it will be a very honest, open discussion between us out on the road.
“Who’s feeling good? Can we get the job done today? Will you pull? Will you not pull? It’s that team dynamic.”
Froome has already done a recce of the Rio course which will cover 256.4km, starting and finishing in Flamengo Park, and including some ferocious climbs.
The friendship between the two riders could be tested earlier too, in the Tour de France where Froome, the undisputed king at Sky after his 2013 and 2015 wins, knows any weakness on his part will be seized upon by his lieutenant.
Froome plays down any conflicting interest between them but knows it is only a matter of time before Thomas makes the podium of a major tour.
”I think G has definitely got the bit between his teeth this year,“ he said. ”Anyone who watched the Tour last year could see what he is capable of.
“It would be great going into the Tour de France with G also (a protected rider) this year.”
With Richie Porte having left Team Sky to pursue his own general classification ambitions alongside Tejat van Garderen at BMC, Froome will rely on Thomas even more this year.
“Geraint is up for the Tour. He really wants to go and earn the right to be a protected rider. And why not?” team boss Dave Brailsford said. “He got a lot of belief out of his performance last year and wants to step up again. That’s exciting.”
Brailsford has beefed up Team Sky’s line-up with signings such as Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski and Spaniard Mikel Landa and Froome knows his standard must not slip as he eyes his European opener at this month’s Tour of Catalunya.
“It’s great that we have got these guys on the team. I know for me that if I become at all complacent these guys are right there to step in and take my place,” he said.
“I‘m going to have to be just as good if not better than I’ve been in the past.”
Editing by Clare Fallon