Defending champion Geraint Thomas says the one positive to come from his team-mate Chris Froome’s absence from this year’s Tour de France is an end to the debate about Team Ineos’ leadership.
Four-time winner Froome faces six months out after a serious crash.
He had been expected to be Ineos’ main rider in France despite Thomas defending his title – but now Thomas is set to assume the lead role.
“It just stops all those questions,” Thomas told BBC Sport Wales.
“Every interview I’ve done this year, they’ve asked about that. That’s one thing everyone can stop asking me now.
“Being the leader of the team, I’ve led the team numerous times now and I’ve got used to that role.
“We’ve got Egan [Bernal] as well, who’s going to be there by my side, so it’s going to be exciting.”
During last year’s Tour, four-time winner Froome was the lead rider for Team Sky – now Team Ineos – before Thomas earned the support of his team as he closed in on victory in the final stages.
The pair’s respective hopes of winning in France this year might have made it difficult for team principal Sir Dave Brailsford to choose a leader, although Froome was the favourite.
But the 34-year-old’s crash while preparing for a stage during last week’s Criterium du Dauphine in Roanne, France – which left him with a fractured neck, a fractured right femur, a broken hip and fractured ribs – means he is unlikely to compete again this year.
“It’s scary. It’s never nice to hear, especially when it’s a close friend. It sounds horrific really,” said Thomas.
“It sounds like he was lucky to come away with the damage he’s done really. It could’ve been a hell of a lot worse, which I guess is a positive in a bad scenario.
“But he’s got the best care around him so hopefully he can get back on the bike soon.
“I’ve sent him a couple of messages but I’m sure he’s got a few to get through. The whole team’s behind him.”
Thomas and Froome have been team-mates at Team Ineos – and its precursor Sky – since 2010, and have also represented Great Britain in the Olympics together.
Although Thomas admits Ineos will be weaker without Froome at this year’s Tour, the Welshman insists his colleague’s withdrawal will have no ill affects on his own preparations.
“None at all,” he added. “I stay in my own little world and just worry about myself and getting to that start line as fit as I can.
“But when it comes to the actual race, he’s one of the greatest Grand Tour riders ever so not having him in the team is a big blow for the team.
“It gives us one less option when it comes to the last few kilometres of the big mountain stages, but that’s sport and you’ve got to deal with it.
“We’ve got a strong squad anyway and whoever comes in, OK they’re not Chris Froome, but they’ll still add to the team.”