Geraint Thomas’ summer campaign ended as battered and torn as his Olympic road race skinsuit.
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A summer scuppered by the types of low-key crashes that only the ever-unlucky Thomas could suffer derailed both his hunt for a yellow jersey in France and an Olympic medal in Tokyo.
“It just seems to be one thing after the next. You stay positive and keep putting your hat in the ring and try not to be scared of failing, but it’s been tough and I’m looking forward to getting away from the cycling world for a bit now.”
Thomas is out of contract with Ineos Grenadiers at the end of the season, and his future is uncertain.
After crashing out of contention in the first week of the Tour de France and struggling through the Games, Thomas has been left short of major results for the second year running and with little to bring to the negotiating table beyond experience and past results.
The transfer window opens Sunday and no one – even Thomas – knows what jersey he’ll be wearing in 2022.
“There’s a few offers but I’m just waiting to speak to one other person,” Thomas said. “We will try to get it resolved quickly because it starts to play on your mind, but we’ll see.
“I’m open. I’ll listen to everyone and once we’ve got everything on the table we’ll go from there.”
It’s been three years since Thomas hit a road career-high with his 2018 Tour de France triumph.
A second-place Tour de France finish the year later showed hints at an illustrious grand tour career. However, two consecutive GC no-shows, firstly at last year’s Giro d’Italia and then this summer’s Tour, leave Thomas with just the Tour de Romandie on his post-yellow jersey palmarès.
— Geraint Thomas (@GeraintThomas86) June 30, 2021
Where could Thomas end up in 2022, and on what terms?
Ineos Grenadiers will be increasingly pivoting to its youthful post-Team Sky inception, focussed around Giro d’Italia champion Egan Bernal and Olympians Richard Carapaz and Tom Pidcock.
While an extension with Ineos Grenadiers is still a possibility for Thomas, it could involve a lower-wage, Richie Porte-esque superdomestique deal.
At 35 years of age and riding on reputation rather than racing form, it’s tough to see where Thomas could go if he steps away from the team he joined 11 years ago.
It’s unlikely one of the WorldTour’s biggest hitters will take Thomas as a GC leader. For him to retain a slot at the top of the team sheet as he slides toward retirement, a sidestep to one of the top-flight’s lower-financed squads may be an only option.
End of Thomas, end of the Team Sky era?
Ineos Grenadiers would take a major step away from its Brit-centric 2010 Team Sky incarnation if Thomas steps out of the bus this winter.
The Welshman is the last rider remaining from the team’s first year now that Ian Stannard has retired and Chris Froome has moved on. And with team boss and grand tour mastermind David Brailsford struggling with his health and uncertain how long he will continue as team director, Ineos Grenadiers could look altogether different in the near future.
The team’s growing Spanish-speaking contingent, spearheaded by Bernal, Carapaz, and Dani Martínez, is in the ascendancy. The old guard – Thomas, Brailsford, Froome, Stannard, and the late, linchpin, sport director Nico Portal – is fading into the rear-view.
Should Thomas not reach terms with his long-time team in the coming weeks, it will make a major milestone for a squad in which he has so long been a cornerstone, including making 10 Tour de France starts.
What could a post-Thomas, Tadej Pogačar-era Ineos Grenadiers look like?
Like Jumbo Visma and UAE-Team Emirates, Ineos Grenadiers has been quietly pouring cash into youth recruitment in recent years.
UAE-Team Emirates has snapped up young aces Tadej Pogačar, Brandon McNulty, and future phenom Juan Ayuso with long-term deals. Jumbo-Visma has pinned down Sepp Kuss, Jonas Vingegaard and Tobias Foss.
Last winter, Ineos Grenadiers brought in Pidcock, Martínez, and Adam Yates, all of who are slated to ride the Vuelta a España this summer.
With Bernal and Pavel Sivakov also set to make a trip to Spain, Ineos Grenadiers will be packing a fresh-faced squad that will be around for some years yet at next month’s Vuelta. Meanwhile, Thomas will be heading to the Tour of Poland and most likely looking for a much-needed racing reset.
This year’s Spanish tour could be a preview of things to come.
Pidcock only turned 22 today, Friday, and Ineos Grenadiers could be pinning its hopes on its off-road Olympian to take the reins alongside 24-year-old Bernal in the longer-term. The Vuelta will mark Pidcock’s grand tour debut and it’s unknown how he will fare. But with victory at last year’s eight-day “Baby Giro” under his belt, the do-it-all wunderkind is likely to take it in his stride.
Thomas will be elsewhere, and Bernal, Pidcock, and Martínez will be in charge.
If you want a preview of a Pogačar-era Ineos Grenadiers, set your sights on Spain.