Any move would need to have been sanctioned by Ineos principal Sir Dave Brailsford, however, and sources have suggested to The Telegraph that Brailsford would rather leave Froome out of his Tour lineup, if he felt three leaders was going to be a problem, than allow him go to a rival team where he could potentially hurt Ineos’ chances of winning the race.
However, with no contract extension on the table from Ineos, and with Froome now looking almost certain to leave the team in 2021, and openly casting about, it remains to be seen how their relationship might have been affected.
Bernal, the reigning champion and rising star, is certain to ride, meaning either Froome or Thomas will have to drop out and potentially refocus on a different grand tour if team Ineos decide three leaders is too many.
Ineos sporting director Servais Knaven told The Telegraph last week that a final decision was still some way off with the rescheduled race not due to start until August 29.
“For now they’re all on the list and they’re all up for it,” Knaven said. “It [having three leaders] could make it difficult but we’ve always been a proper team. The most important thing is that Ineos win the Tour.
“It can also be an advantage to have three leaders. It gives you tactical options. We are confident we can make it work. But we have to work as a team.
“I think it’s a good thing to have three riders who have won the Tour before, as opposed to three riders who have never won the Tour before.”