Many star cyclists publish autobiographies or books centered on key moments of their careers. Geraint Thomas is in good company here, but the 2018 Tour de France champion stands apart from many of his contemporaries. In his new book, “The Tour According to G,” published this week in the U.S., Thomas does not shy away from the controversial, juicy backstory of the race which he was not expected to win.
We had a chance to speak with Thomas in mid-January to learn more about his approach to this book, the second he has published. We spoke to him about why honesty is so important for him, the behind-the-scenes drama in France last July, and his love for riding in Southern California and visiting American sporting events.
VeloNews: We’re here in Malibu, California. Geraint, I understand that Southern California is a regular destination for you in January. What’s your history with this area, and why do you come here for your January training?
Geraint Thomas: It kind of started I wanted to do something different. I’d done Tour Down Under six or seven years in a row. It was really good, it worked well for me but I wanted a bit of a change. Traditionally the team, if you don’t do Down Under you’re in Mallorca. I’d kind of done that every year at least once for the last 17 years, so I was like, I can’t be going there again two, three times a year. Wanted the change. Spoke to a few guys and heard it was quite good out here. My wife has a cousin here, so we’ve got a few family members. Cameron Worth, Ironman triathlete, trains a bit here.
Last year I thought why not give it a go. It worked really well, obviously. It’s nice. It’s an eight-hour time difference from the UK, you’re just away from everything. It’s great training for me, other than the rain for this week. It still wasn’t cold. The climbs, you kind of get everything you need for January. There’s stuff you can do on the time trial bike up and down PCH. For this month, to really get that big workload, it’s ideal.
VN: And you got to see some Lakers games, met [rapper] Fat Joe.
GT: Yeah that was so weird because when I was in school I was really into hip-hop, and just to bump into Fat Joe in the corridor was mad, so I thought oh, I’ve got to get a picture.
VN: He didn’t know who you were?
GT: No idea!
That’s one of the biggest changes really since winning the Tour. Got to go courtside at the Lakers, go to the Rams game as well, the playoff game. It’s pretty cool.
I love America as well. It’s just so different than the UK. Everyone is a lot happier, especially in California anyway. It’s just a nice place to hang out, once you’ve done your training, I was doing five, six hours on the bike. My wife’s family were here for the first few weeks, so she wasn’t just sat around waiting for me to come back from training. Everyone has had a really good time.
VN: I read the book, and it’s a great read. Books written by cyclists often gloss over the juicy stuff like tension. Yet you write candidly about the tension you felt with Sky management and Chris Froome during the 2018 Tour de France (maybe give some examples). Why did you go there with the book?
GT: I think a lot of books seem to be a bit wishy-washy and not honest. That’s the one thing I always try to do whenever I do interviews. Just try to cover everything that happened in the Tour really, exactly how I felt, how it was, just try to put that down really. I don’t regret it but the only thing now is I can tell that so many questions will be about Froomey now all the way to the Tour. I made my own bed for that. But I enjoyed doing it. It’s like anything, when you do something good, something else is around the corner and you kind of forget about it almost, you don’t actually get time to sit down and reflect on it. Doing the book really helped with that as well. I wrote it with Tom Ford, chief sports rider for BBC, he was there for the whole Tour as well, out there with me. It was quite easy to do and enjoyable.
VN: You touch on themes of masculinity throughout your book, such as your inclination to keep a stoic demeanor with your wife, to not show emotion. What are the roots of this attitude? Is this the way you were raised, or a product of the sport of cycling?
GT: I think it’s just how I am really. Like I say in the book it was all about just trying to play it down all the time in my head. Even though you tell yourself, it’s just a bike race or whatever, but it’s not is it? It’s the biggest bike race in the world and it can change your life. You just downplay it all the time. I never try to get emotional. Just always try and stay logical. I’ve always done that in the past. Working with Steve Peters sports psychologist just reinforced that.
VN: One of the most interesting dynamics in your book is the way you describe rationalizing these moments of tension with Sky management and Chris after initially feeling upset. The TTT situation comes to mind, so does the moment when management allows Chris to attack up the Col du Portet. How does that process play out in real time? Do you get over your feelings immediately, does it take hours to get over? And how do you compose yourself as you’re working through these feelings?
GT: I think to start with, obviously I’m a bit like, ‘Jeeze what’s going on guys.’ You get a bit sort of maybe frustrated or whatever. Within half an hour or so you just think about it and try to rationalize it and come from their perspective, and at the end of the day it’s not going to affect how I go and how I race anyway and just crack on and accept it and move on and don’t dwell on it.
Especially the team time trial that was stage 3, if I just let that bug me the whole time, then I don’t think I would have won the race. It would have just dragged you down the whole time, just your mood and everything would have been so up and down and your performance would follow that.
VN: Did it keep you up at night?
GT: No not really, after that initial half-hour, hour, just sort of rationalized it a bit more how they would be thinking and what they would be thinking. That was it then. Put it to bed and move on. Just worry about the actual race and not the whole politics of it.
VN: Did these moments impact your overall trust in Sky management throughout the race?
GT: Not really no. Like I say in the book, Froomey had won six grand tours, four Tours de France before that. If you were going to bet on someone you’d put it on that rather than myself because I hadn’t got top 10 up to that point, but at the same time I knew I had the legs to do it. They did as well, but I think they wanted to make sure we were both in the best position to be there. That’s how I saw it, and that was it.
VN: I ask that because here we are, it’s January, and management is on the hunt for a new sponsor or owner to save the team. You famously inked a deal to ride with Sky for three years this past fall, despite having a pretty big cash offer from CCC. A lot of us saw that deal as confirmation that Sky was in great shape for the foreseeable future. What is the current state of your overall trust in Sky management? Do you trust that what they tell you is true?
GT: I think so. I believe in Dave and Fran and the team that are out there looking for a new sponsor. The way I see it is we’re in the best shape to find one, we’re the best bike racing team in the world if not one of the best sporting teams really with the success we’ve had in a short space of time. Like I say it’s the best position to find something. They’re going out there and working their hardest to do that and find something. I’ve got all faith that they can. Obviously if they don’t come July, August you’ll have to look elsewhere. The structure and everything there, the team is proven. Everything is in place, it’s not like you’re starting from scratch and finding a sponsor and having to build everything. You’d think that’d be appealing to a lot of companies or individuals or whatever. We’ll see, time will tell.
VN: Are you second-guessing your decision to extend with Sky?
No not at all really. Because I’ve got three more good years trying to win grand tours really. I feel this team is the best one for me, I’ve still got next year. I’m confident they’ll find something anyway and keep it going. If not you’ll have to go elsewhere and take that risk I didn’t really want to take before which was the reason why I stayed. Changes happen sometimes that are out of your control and you have to accept it, move on and stay positive, keep doing what you do.
VN: I want you to close your eyes and visualize all of the memories you can from this past year’s Tour. Which one is clearest, most poignant … the one memory that stays with you the rest of your life?
Finishing the time trial, knowing, finally just accepting and realizing that I’d won the Tour. Up to that point, I was never thinking about the end it was always about the next stage the next climb, the process, eating this at this time, trying to recover the best, sleeping, all that type of stuff, and suddenly there was nothing else to focus on it was done and I’d won. That elation was just unreal. My wife was there and I didn’t know she’d be there. The team had flown her out specially for the end of the TT. She kind of thinks she’s a bit of a bad luck omen because a few times she’s come out to a big race and I’ve crashed out. For sure that TT was unreal something that will always stay with me.
Listen to this interview on the VeloNews cycling podcast: