Team Ineos boss Dave Brailsford believes Geraint Thomas’ Tour de France title defence is the “best it could be” as it nears the halfway point.
Thomas moved up to second place after Monday’s 10th stage and is now one minute and 12 seconds behind overall race leader Julian Alaphilippe.
With Alaphilippe not regarded as a yellow jersey contender, Brailsford is pleased with Thomas’ position.
“I think we continue to do what we have been doing so far,” Brailsford said.
“To be at this point of the race at the first rest day, second and third overall on GC [general classification] is probably the best it could be for us.
“We are here to race. I live and breathe and think all day about sticking the knife in and, when you get the chance, twisting it.”
Thomas is hoping to be the first rider since Miguel Indurain in 1992 to successfully defend his title as a first-time Tour winner.
With Chris Froome out injured this year, the Welshman is sharing the Team Ineos leadership with Egan Bernal, who is in third place overall, four seconds behind Thomas.
Under their previous guise of Team Sky, the team won six of the past seven Tours, and Thomas hopes that pedigree will stand them in good stead this time around.
“We have a lot of experience, we know how to win the race,” he said.
“With myself and Egan second and third it has been a great 10 days.
“Obviously it would be better if we were a couple of seconds behind Alaphilippe rather than a minute but other than that it’s great.”
Alaphilippe has been a popular Tour leader in France, becoming the first Frenchman to wear the yellow jersey since Tony Gallopin in 2014.
The 27-year-old has a fine record in the race – winning the mountains classification last year – but Alaphilippe does not have a history of competing for general classification honours at Grand Tours.
“I wouldn’t say we were happy [with Alaphilippe leading] but we didn’t mind him gaining a few seconds here and there in that first week because he’s never really ridden for GC over three weeks before,” said Thomas.
“Obviously you’ve got to be more and more aware of him the further the race goes on but there are some big days now in the mountains and the time trial. I guess by the second rest day we’ll know a lot more.
“If he’s increased his advantage we’ll obviously be more concerned. We’ll just see how it goes. It’s an unknown for him as well.”
‘Most positive race since we started’ – Brailsford
When they were known as Team Sky, Brailsford’s team proved unpopular in France as a result of their dominance of the Tour and controversies involving Froome and former champion Bradley Wiggins.
But with both those riders absent and following a change of title sponsorship, Team Ineos have avoided the booing and heckling they endured when they were known as Team Sky.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, this has been the most positive race since we started,” said Brailsford.
“It’s a very dramatic change since last year. I guess we can all speculate as to why that may be, but we’re a new team.
“It has been interesting to change teams because it makes you think about what you stand for and look and reflect on what you would otherwise rather than just carrying on.
“Ineos is a very different culture and organisation to Sky and we are embracing that. It feels a little bit more relaxed and a bit more open.”