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Thomas turns back on cobbles, focuses on GC riding

Geraint Thomas will skip racing on the cobbles in 2016 in favor of the Ardennes classics and stage races as he switches to a GC rider.

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STIRLING, Australia (VN) — Geraint Thomas is turning his back on the pavé in a daring gamble to try to reshape himself into a legitimate stage race contender.

His biggest successes for the former trackie have come over the bumpy roads of Flanders, capped by victory at E3 Harelbeke last year, but the Sky rider got a taste of Tour de France glory last summer and is now committed to trying to sculpt his body into a grand tour contender.

“It’s come to a point where I need to decide what road I want to go down,” Thomas told VeloNews. “It was a hard decision to make, because E3 is my biggest win and I love that race. It’s hard to miss it, but you have to make the call sometime.”

The 29-year-old Welshman had a personal revelation during last year’s Tour, when he was often the last man for Sky teammate Chris Froome deep into the mountains. He finally lost touch in the Alps, riding into Paris with a career-best 15th — performances that prompted Thomas to hit the reset button.

“After last year, I was really shocked and excited, and I want to see how far I can take that,” Thomas said. “This year, I want to get stuck in for the one-week races, and see what I can do. When it comes to the Tour, I want to go as a solid backup for Froomey, and if anything would happen, try to be my best.”

To do that, he needs to shed weight, ideally trimming down to around 67kg (147 pounds), and will skip racing the northern classics this year in favor of racing on the hills of the Ardennes. The only race he is committed to start in Belgium is the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), with a possible start in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. After the Santos Tour Down Under, his spring focus will be on stage races. Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, and Tour de Romandie are on the menu.

Thomas said there’s no risk of a repeat of the drama between Froome and Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 Tour. Froome is clearly the captain of the Sky ship, and he wants to step up to help fill the void left by Richie Porte, now on BMC Racing.

“The whole plan is to arrive to the Tour as best I can,” he said. “People have already asked me, ‘what if it comes down to a Brad-Froome sort of scenario?’ For me, the goal is to be in the position where I am good enough to even think about attacking. I will do my bit for Froomey, but hopefully think about myself a little bit.”

Thomas said he hopes to someday be in position to lead a team at a grand tour, perhaps even targeting the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a España. Unfortunately, that means his love for the northern classics will be on the back burner.

“I think you can still be competitive in both, and race both the cobbles and GC,” he said. “But this year, I want to ride as many stage races as I can. It’s all about learning and growing, and Catalunya clashes with Harelbeke and Wevelgem.”

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