It’s all-in for Geraint Thomas (Sky) and a return to the Tour de France.
Thomas, who makes his season debut in Spain on Wednesday, confirmed he will not race the Giro d’Italia ahead of July’s defense of the yellow jersey.
“It was tempting, but I do not want to jeopardize the chances of the Tour for anything this year,” Thomas told the BBC. “It is an attractive route, especially with three time trials. Maybe next year or the year after. It has always been about the Tour this year.”
Thomas makes his season debut this week at the five-stage Volta a la Valenciana a very different rider than he was a year ago.
Thomas struck gold in last year’s Tour de France, delivering an unexpected yellow jersey that forever changed him as a rider and a person. On Wednesday, he lines up for his first race since the Tour of Britain back in September.
Speaking to the BBC at Tuesday night’s team presentation, Thomas said it’s “back to the day job” as his 2019 season clicks into gear.
“I feel OK now, good enough to race,” Thomas said. “I am not here for a podium or a win. It’s about getting going again. I will just build on that until my initial goals, which are in April, and then building up toward the Tour.”
Thomas, 32, says he’s intent on targeting the Tour de France as defending champion.
In January, Team Sky laid out the team’s larger goals, and Thomas squarely put the Tour at the center of his plans. There have been recent hints that Thomas was considering racing the Giro d’Italia in May. Thomas made it clear, however, that his road to the Tour does not run through the Giro this year.
“It’s strange, we’re closer to the start of this next Tour than from the end of the last one,” he said. “I want to go there and get the best result I can. I want to get in the best shape possible, and then you go out and race your bike. What will be, will be.”
Thomas has had a busy off-season filled with awards, ceremonies, and high-profile celebrity events. He eased back into training with a stint in California — check out VeloNews’s latest podcast for an exclusive interview with Thomas — and now he’s back in Europe to race.
“It’s been busy. Normally an off-season is a lot of rest, but there hasn’t been a lot of that. I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s nice to be back and ride my bike,” Thomas said. “It’s been good fun and certainly different, but I’ve enjoyed it. Now it’s back to being a bike rider again.”
Thomas said he feels at ease with his Tour victory and said the yellow jersey has an almost liberating effect on his season. Instead of feeling undue pressure, Thomas insists he’s free to race unburdened to chase the yellow jersey that he’s already won.
“When you reach the pinnacle, and to do something you’ve dreamed of your whole life, it takes all the pressure off,” he said. “Now I can just enjoy racing and riding my bike, and the pleasure that brings. It takes a lot of pressure off. [Training] is what I am still enjoying — I am still hungry for it, and I am training hard.”
The five-day Valenciana race opens Wednesday with a 10.2km individual time trial in Orihuela.