There was a clinical excellence to the manner in which Ineos Grenadiers as Team Sky would robotically grind rival riders and teams into submission at the Tour de France.
It won them few favours from a French public looking for panache and flair, and the architect of their previously strangling dominance Dave Brailsford has instead promised a Tour based on aggression and attack this year.
In some ways, it could be interpreted as an admission that they do not have the single rider capable of beating defending champion Tadej Pogacar or the rider he dethroned on French roads late in the day last year, Primoz Roglic.
But Thomas, the 2018 winner who was runner-up the following year, said: “There are four guys who potentially can be up there and that’s great. It gives us cards to play later on.
“At the same time, we can’t get carried away and try to protect four riders. That would be impossible and would take too much out of the other four in the first week. But if we can all be in touching distance, then it can be a great strength. But as we all know, that won’t be the case – something will happen to somebody as it always does. The good thing is there’s no ego in this team.”
As a former Tour winner with 11 appearances in the race, Thomas is essentially the team’s No1, not to mention the 58 kilometres of time trials, which ought to play to his strengths and those of Geogheghan Hart.
Thomas’ form has also been good. At his traditional Tour warm-up event, the Criterium du Dauphine, he was third behind winner and team-mate Porte, and also has a stage race win to his name in 2021 in the Tour de Romandie.
He believes his knowledge will come to the fore against relatively inexperienced Tour riders in Roglic and Pogacar, for all their brilliance last year.
“I hope the experience will give me the slight edge,” he said. “This is my 11th start in the Tour. I have that experience behind me, as we do as a team. We’ve got a strong team. I think the main thing is good communication. As long as we continue that, I think we can be in a very strong position.”