Geraint Thomas: ‘I don’t class myself as GC, GC, GC now’
Former Tour de France winner says he will no longer fixate on July despite this year's leadership opportunity
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After several years in which he devoted almost his entire season around challenging for top honors in a grand tour, Geraint Thomas will take a calmer and perhaps more casual approach to his racing.
The Tour de France and a possible GC tilt will remain as part of his 2022 schedule but the veteran British rider will no longer base his entire program around wining a three-week race.
Speaking at the Volta ao Algarve, the 2018 Tour de France winner confirmed to VeloNews that his race schedule will include Tirreno-Adriatico, then either Catalunya or the Tour of the Basque Country, Fleche Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Tour de Romandie, Tour de Suisse, and then the Tour.
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After missing an extended period of training over the winter due to surgery Thomas is slightly behind in his season preparations but the Welshman is determined to improve over the coming weeks. However his stance towards racing has shifted slightly, and rather than focus on the overall standings in every race he competes in, he will manage expectations and dovetail his ambitions with those of the team.
“The shape is okay, and it’s coming but I missed five weeks of the winter and that’s a decent chunk of time. It will come back quickly, it’s just good to be here racing because you can go deeper than in training,” he told VeloNews.
“Hopefully, I’ll just get some consistency. That’s the key for me now. The end of last year was shit. I finished the season in a pretty crap place and I’m still missing that extra time from the winter. Since the turn of the new year, I had a good chunk of time in LA with Cameron Wurf and I’m moving on nicely.”
Thomas’ 2021 season ended in disappointment after he crashed at the Tour de France. He hobbled through the race but never rediscovered his early season form again. During the off-season, he had shoulder surgery and his protracted contract negotiations with Ineos Grenadiers ran through until December.
Several teams had shown interest in signing the former Tour winner, including NextHash, but according to Thomas, the primary elements within his Ineos contract extension were agreed on much earlier in the autumn.
“It took forever. I don’t really know why there was a delay in the end. I spoke to Dave [Brailsford] in the end and we just sorted it out. By the time I finished the season I knew that I was staying and the main things like the duration, expectations of me, and salary were all nailed down. Then December came around and I thought, shit I’ve not signed it yet. I think there must have been a lot going on but it just seems a long time to actually do it and announce it,” he said.
“Before I agreed with Dave I was looking at options because there were a few decent offers on the table but at the end of the day, the main decision was that I’m happy here. I’ve got some really good mates here, from the staff and the riders, and the last couple of years of my career I want to really have fun and enjoy it. I can perform here, and I’m happy at the dinner table. I could be at a team that spoke Spanish, and that might not be as fun.”
When pressed as to whether these would indeed be the final two years of his career, the 35-year-old drew back slightly but did confirm that extending beyond 2023 would perhaps be a stretch at this point.
“Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not committing to that, but it would be a weird feeling for sure being my 17th year as a professional next year,” he said. “It will be weird to stop but it’s got to stop at some point. I’ll do this year and then see. I’ll do what’s best for my family.
“I’m enjoying racing, I love the training still, it’s just that the knocks are harder to take now. When you have operations and broken bones it takes its toll. I feel like I can still bounce back well. We’ll see.”
Last shot at Tour de France glory?
With Egan Bernal’s season now focused on recovery rather than results following his life-threatening training crash, Thomas looks like the primary leader for the Tour de France. There had been recent speculation involving Richard Carapaz being shunted from the Giro d’Italia to the Tour but that seems unlikely at this point.
Instead, Thomas, Daniel Martinez, and a strong supporting crew will head to the grand depart to take on Primož Roglič and two-time defending champion Tadej Pogačar.
Such a plan would potentially give Thomas a clear run at GC and a second yellow jersey but, at this point in the year, the Welshman is looking to dissipate pressure rather than attract it.
“For the last five or six years a grand tour has been my main focus but this year, not so much. It’s still an important part of the year but I’m not thinking Tour, Tour, Tour. I’m thinking about going to races and trying to take what I can from it. I want to be more aggressive and race for stages, maybe help the team on GC or go for GC myself, but I don’t class myself as GC, GC, GC now,” he said.
“It’s more about how I approach races, and how I ride in them really. I’ll still train as hard as ever and be as successful as I can in those races but it’s not the be-all and end-all.”
That approach may work. After all, Thomas’s teammate Richie Porte took a step back from entirely focussing on grand tours and ended up with a career-best third at the 2020 Tour de France.
“Exactly. It’s a funny old game,” Thomas said. “As long as you’re motivated and happy, you can ride well and take your chances. Look at Magnus Sheffield, he took a great opportunity and won his first pro race early. It’s just about rolling with it and having fun.”