At least, that’s how Thomas is viewing the controversial move as he prepares to lead Ineos’ GC hopes at the Giro d’Italia.
Thomas, the 2018 Tour de France champion, said that team Principal David Brailsford’s decision to leave him at home for the Tour breathed new life into his 2020 season.
“It [the Tour] was a decision that Dave and myself made together after the Critérium du Dauphiné,” Thomas said. “It actually gave me a new lease of life as well.”
“To be honest I was over [the Tour] pretty quickly. The initial disappointment was more that it was just the first real time I’d not hit my target for the year. I knew I wasn’t in the shape to challenge for the win, that was the disappointing thing.”
Thomas spoke to journalists on a video conference call ahead of Friday’s UCI world championship time trial in Imola, Italy. Thomas is racing the worlds ITT alongside countryman Alex Dowsett, and he is the 37th rider to leave the starting house.
Thomas said he would have preferred a hillier course — Friday’s route is nearly flat. He tipped defending champion Rohan Dennis of Australia and TT ace Filippo Ganna of Italy as the two favorites on the route.
“Filippo Ganna and Rohan Dennis, for sure, I’d say, are the favorites,” Thomas said. “But also Tom Dumoulin and Wout Van Aert. Both of them had a big Tour, but they haven’t been racing to the finish line every day and I think they’ll probably come out of it OK.”
Thomas spoke at length about his non-selection for the Tour de France, and how he had rebounded from the setback.
The decision to leave Thomas and Chris Froome off of Ineos’ Tour de France squad came after both men had poor showings at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and the decision shattered Ineos’ pre-Tour plans for a three-pronged attack at the GC with Froome, Thomas, and Egan Bernal. Thomas’ exclusion received criticism from journalists and cycling pundits — including former teammate Bradley Wiggins of British broadcaster Eurosport — after Ineos’ faltered early in the race.
Bernal couldn’t match the climbing pace of Primož Roglič and eventual winner Tadej Pogačar, and he eventually abandoned on the race ahead of stage 17, two stages after he was dropped for good on the slopes of the Grand Colombier. After Bernal’s abandonment, Ineos chased stage wins.
Thomas, 34, said he returned home to Cardiff, Wales, to spend time with his wife and new son before starting his build-up for the Giro. He traveled to his second home in Monaco and began a new training and dietary plan aimed at the Italian race.
“As soon as I was back out in Monaco and starting the whole Giro project I was motivated and good to go then,” Thomas said. “It gave me a bit of new impetus.”
Thomas said he worked a team nutritionist to adjust his diet as he logged long miles in southern France. His training regimen focused on long, easy rides.
In early September Thomas raced Tirreno-Adriatico and appeared to be on better form. He finished third place in three different stages and then slotted into second place overall, just 17 seconds behind overall winner Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
Thomas credited the training regimen for getting him back into race shape.
“I think I was a bit lighter,” Thomas said. “After the Dauphiné I went on a strict sort of regime really. I worked with the nutritionist. The team were telling me how much pasta, protein, and veg to have. I was just doing long easy rides; six [to] seven-hour rides. That helped just shift a bit of the weight and that’s made the biggest difference really. The power was decent in the Dauphine, I was just running a little heavy early on.”