Cycling

At 25, Geraint Thomas seems like a Tour veteran

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LISIEUX, France (AP)

Geraint Thomas was the youngest rider in the peloton when he made his Tour de France debut in 2007. Four years later and the 25-year-old Thomas is the Tour's best young rider.

Heading into Friday's seventh stage, Thomas was seventh overall and proudly wearing the white jersey - awarded to the best young rider in the Tour. He wore the jersey for several stages last year.

''It feels like he's been around for years now. He started his first Tour very young,'' Thomas' Sky team boss Dave Brailsford said. ''He's got a lot of experience now and that shows. It's a mental battle as much anything else and he copes with that really well.''

But Thomas has competition from Edvald Boasson Hagen, who won Thursday and is a year younger, could end up taking the white jersey.

''We've been rooming together,'' Thomas said. ''I've been wearing the white jersey, I think he wants it off my back.''

Joking aside, the Welshman knows his principal role on the Sky team is to help Bradley Wiggins finish as high as possible in the overall classification. Wiggins, who finished fourth in the 2009 Tour, was a place above Thomas in sixth heading into Stage 7.

Thomas won Olympic gold in the team pursuit in 2008 and earned his first pro victory in May, on the five-day Bayern-Rundfahrt race in Germany. Then last month, he lost his British road race title to Wiggins.

Although Thomas is respected as a model teammate for Wiggins, Brailsford says he is ''a very driven guy'' with a burning ambition of his own - although that's not obvious at first glance given his mild-mannered demeanor.

''He's the classic swan with the legs flapping under water,'' Brailsford said. ''That's Geraint.''

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AMADOR'S FIRST TOUR: Andrey Amador of Costa Rica is making history as the first rider from Central America competing in the Tour de France. He hopes it won't be his last time.

''I think what's more important is that it opens a path for other generations of riders who are coming up,'' Amador told The Associated Press. ''I think there are riders with great promise. I hope they open their eyes and dare to try to come.''

Amador crashed during Saturday's first stage, going down with two of his Movistar teammates in the Western Vendee region. He has been riding with ankle pain ever since.

But it will take more than that to force the 24-year-old to pull out.

''Leaving the injury aside, the will to compete and the needs of the team are the things that are keeping me in the race,'' he said. ''My goal is to be OK for the second week - be part of an escape in the stages that favor me.''

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GILBERT PLAYS IT SAFE: Belgian sprinter Philippe Gilbert did just enough to keep the green jersey for another day, by one point over Spaniard Jose Joaquin Rojas.

''Yes, it was very close, there's very little in it. It will be hard to get points tomorrow,'' Gilbert said after finishing seventh in Thursday's sixth stage. ''Everyone was a bit out of breath. ... I preferred to play it safe.''

Even if Gilbert loses the green jersey, his Tour already has been a success because he wore the race leader's yellow jersey for a day after winning Saturday's opening stage.

''I came to the Tour to win a stage and wear yellow, and that's already done,'' he said.

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FREEZE FRAME: HTC-Highroad sporting director Rolf Aldag initially had no idea that team rider Mark Cavendish won Wednesday's fifth stage of the Tour de France - because of a faulty television screen.

Just as Cavendish started sprinting, the TV screen stopped working.

''The picture froze with 800 meters to go,'' Aldag said. ''Cavendish was nowhere to be seen.''

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Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report.

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Jerome Pugmire can be reached at http://twitter.com/jeromepugmire

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