Chris Froome to battle Geraint Thomas for Team Sky top rider at Tour de France after skipping Giro defence
Team Sky are set to go into what could be their final Tour de France with two leaders as four-time winner Chris Froome and defending champion Geraint Thomas both confirmed they will target the race in 2019.
Froome will not defend his Giro d'Italia title as he seeks a record-equalling fifth Tour crown, but will face a challenge from within as Thomas also plans to be in France having won the race for the first time in July.
Both riders have said they want to deliver success on the road in order to help Team Sky secure new sponsorship, with the decision of broadcaster Sky to end its investment in the sport after 2019 leaving the team with an uncertain future.
Froome admitted it was a difficult decision not to defend his Giro crown after becoming the first British winner of the Italian race last May, but he has his eyes on the record of five Tour titles jointly held by Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain.
"I'm getting to the point in my career now where I'm starting to think about what kind of legacy I want to leave behind and if I am able to win the Tour de France for a fifth time and join that very elite group of bike riders - only four other people have ever done that - it would just be incredible," the 33-year-old said.
That will leave Sky with two leaders in France in July, with Thomas keen to defend his title before turning his attention to the time trial at the world championships in Yorkshire in September. He too will miss the Giro.
"The main goal for me will be to go back to the Tour de France for the best result I can," the Welshman said.
"Maybe if I hadn't have won the Tour in 2018 I might have looked at a Giro/Vuelta programme but, having won the Tour, I'll have the number one on my back and it would be sad not to go back and not to go back at 100% as well.
"The year will be geared around that, but I'm also looking forward to a slightly different programme as well, and obviously after the Tour, the Worlds in Yorkshire will be massive."
With Thomas and Froome focused on the Tour, Sky will hand team leadership for the Giro in May to 21-year-old rising star Egan Bernal, who finished 15th at the Tour in July in his first season at WorldTour level.
"The Giro is a race that I really, really like," the Colombian said. "I lived in Italy for three years, so I have a lot of friends there and I really like the Italian fans.
"I know the roads, I really like the Giro, and I want to do a good race there."