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Commentary: We are all Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas and his embarrassing tumble at the Tour de Romandie is a reminder that top cyclists are just like you and me, writes Fred Dreier.

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By now you’ve likely rewatched the blooper video 500 times.

You know the one I’m talking about — the clip of poor Geraint Thomas slipping from his bicycle during Saturday’s Queen stage of the Tour de Romandie and tumbling to the soggy tarmac within booger -flicking distance of the finish line.

Perhaps you’ve transformed the clip into a hilarious GIF inspired by Neymar’s tumbling flop at the 2018 World Cup.

Or, maybe you’ve photoshopped Thomas’ horizontal body onto an image of the exploding Death Star or of Disaster Girl or of that container ship wedged in the Suez Canal.

Thomas himself memed his crash, and you can see his excellent work below.

If you haven’t been memeing or GIFing, then maybe you’re like me, and you’ve simply studied the crash footage like it’s the Zapruder film, analyzing each agonizing frame to try and surmise some overarching Theory of Everything-type conclusion that links pro cycling with humanity’s doomed pursuit of perfection and the glorious if inevitable failings of mankind.

No, you haven’t been doing this?

Great — well, then let me regale you with the wisdom that I’ve earned by watching Geraint Thomas biff it over and over again.

Pro cycling, as we all know, is a sport that rewards precision, as well as a type-A approach to training and racing.

Teams like Ineos Grenadiers will chart every inch of a 120-mile stage to discover the optimum moment to either attack or take a pee break. The discovery of marginal gains, we’ve been assured, is the key to victory!

Thus, top riders like Thomas live a highly regimented life of training and dieting and preparation, all in the pursuit of being ready for the exact moment of attack — that moment when the finish line is in sight and victory will be determined by a revolution of the pedals.

And yet, despite all of the sport’s reliance on practice and precision — not to mention the hundreds of hours of preparation and planning — crazy s&@t like Geraint Thomas crashing happens all the time.

Multi-million-dollar teams squander their advantage and top champions crash on innocuous stretches of road. Often times, all of the energy and cash placed into the singular pursuit of excellence is no match for a momentary lapse in concentration.

Despite the sport’s attempts to engineer victory, pro cycling cannot rid itself of human nature or bad luck.

Flat tires, slippery roads, overzealous fans, brain farts — cycling has so many unpredictable obstacles that can torpedo preparation and planning. It’s one more reason to love the sport.

Thomas was sprinting toward the line, half frozen from racing all day in the rain, and his right hand simply slipped off of the shifter hood.

In his post-race interview, Thomas expressed a very relatable emotion — embarrassment.

“I had no feeling whatsoever in my hands and I tried to change gear but instead I just lost the bars,” he said. “It’s so frustrating because even if I had just stayed in that gear and came second place … but to deck it there, I feel like a right whopper.”

Think about how many times Geraint Thomas has chugged toward a finish line with his hands on the hoods in sunshine, wind, or rain. He’s raced bicycles since he was a child, and has likely spent tens of thousands of hours pedaling a bike.

Racing at high speeds is undoubtedly second nature to him — an activity that’s as commonplace as walking up stairs or tying one’s shoes is for you and me. And even he screws up from time to time.

And here’s where my second grand conclusion about Geraint Thomas, crashing, and humanity rests: Geraint Thomas is just like you and me, folks.

His embarrassing crash is perhaps the most relatable thing he’s ever done on two wheels.

That’s because Thomas taking a digger in sight of the finish line is just like you stepping in a mud puddle while walking into the office to deliver your presentation on Q2 profits.

It’s his version of spilling Diet Coke on his keyboard midway through that important Zoom call. He did something he’s done a million times before, only this one time everything went wrong.

I’ve written time and again about my fandom for Geraint Thomas, yet this episode is the first time where I’ve actually been able to relate to the guy.

He is a wealthy pro athlete, and I am an unwashed journalist clicking buttons on an MacBook, but really, we are the same — we are both fallible beings who sometimes screw up activities that we could literally do in our sleep.

There’s a happy ending here, of course, and that’s that Thomas had a scorching individual time trial after his crash to win the race overall.

For me, the 2021 Tour de Romandie will forever be remembered for Thomas’ goofy tumble, and the reminder that he’s a human, and not a cycling automaton, programed to win.

And, to honor Geraint Thomas’ human flaws, I have compiled a short list of everyday calamities that are every bit as banal and basic to us mere mortals as crashing within sight of the finish is to a superstar cyclist.

If you’ve ever forgotten where you parked your car at the mall or airport, and the search for your car caused you to be late for an important event, guess what?

You’re just like Geraint Thomas.

If you’ve ever bent down to tie your shoelaces and smacked your forehead on table or desk or countertop — you’re just like Geraint Thomas.

If you’ve ever stepped on a garden rake, only to have that garden rake bolt upright and hit you in the face, yep, you’re just like Geraint Thomas.

If you’ve ever been slicing a bagel, and the bread knife goes through the bagel and cuts your palm, and while it’s not a bad cut you still are forced to type with one hand for a few days, then you’re like Geraint Thomas.

If you’ve ever rounded a corner too tightly and bashed into the wall, and then stood there staring at the wall wondering if it somehow moved further into the hallway, then you, my friend, are just like Geraint Thomas.

If you’ve ever slipped and then bashed your shin into a chair and oh my God, it hurts so bad — yep, you and Geraint Thomas are the same.

If you’ve ever dropped your phone into a port-a-potty or swimming pool or lake and then lost all of your contacts and photos, you are like Geraint Thomas.

If you’ve ever spent hours writing a column or term paper, only to have your computer re-start, and then learn that you hadn’t saved your work, then you are like Geraint Thomas.

My list could go on and on.

Nobody is perfect — we’re all just trying our best, folks. You, me, and Geraint Thomas.

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