Getting to Know Geraint Thomas
We chat about the offseason, his plans for the Tour De France and being a soccer fan.
2019 is going to be a tough year to top for Geraint Thomas. On paper, if you could create a dream team with a sky high budget unheard of in cycling, hire the best riders to sacrifice their own hopes and dreams for you, have the best equipment in the world and a small army of dedicated support staff all working for you the pressure is on. Geraint Thomas, the most recent Tour De France Champion seems to be handling the pressure and attention just fine even though all eyes are on him.
To cyclists and fans, he represents the pinnacle of what can be accomplished in sport winning cyclings biggest event and doing it against the odds. At the 2018 Tour the attention was on teammate Chris Froome who was attempting to make a historic 5th Tour De France win. Before the Tour started, Team Sky were going to devote their resources to Froome while he is surrounded and supported by teammates. In the stages with the high mountains, the team would stick to their tried, true and tested but also boring strategy of bringing their team to the front and stringing out the peloton in order to discourage any attacks. By the end of the stage, the best climbers in the world would be whittled down to perhaps five or six riders and Froome would be among them. In some cases winning a stage and shining in the time trials.
Thomas however might have had other plans. One of the main problems with teams with too many riders who can win is the inter team rivalry. We’ve seen it in cycling before with LeMond and Hinault, Riis and Ulrich and even Wiggins and Froome. The thing about Thomas is not a classic case of young rookie vs. seasoned vet. Normally at the end of a race like the Tour, teammates would part ways and race on different teams while being supported by their own squad. This is not that narrative. First, both Froome and Thomas are friends. Second, Thomas is an experienced veteran who came up through the ranks with the current crop of top riders including Froome. This is not the case of passing the torch or the start of a new era.
On Geraint Thomas’s shoulders is to play his plans close to the vest until the Tour. Perhaps not until the first real mountains of the tour. If and when Thomas chooses to defend his Tour De France title, that reveals layers of information that could cause unnecessary pressure on Team Sky aka future team Ineos organization. First it communicates to Froome, his team and competitors that he wants to be the designated leader diverting attention and team resources to him. Second, team loyalties may be split or abandoned if David Brailsford has other plans for Thomas. That could cause internal drama for a squad that is busy watching itself as well as the rest of the peloton. For now we can only speculate the true desires of the current Tour De France champion. History has shown us that previous winners, especially first wins have always garnered a fighting chance to defend it the next year.
In Solana Beach California, we got to meet and chat with Geraint Thomas during the offseason. During that time, the pressure is a bit off. Rider’s don’t have to talk about their most recent race, fitness or strict diet. They can chat about getting to do some of the things they normally don’t do during the race Calendar. The headquarters for Pinarello North America was the venue for the event. They were showcasing not only Geraint Thomas but Triathlete standout Cameron Wurf as well as a stable of the latest Pinarello bicycle models, lavish buffet and highlights of the Tour De France on the big screen. It’s not everyday, Geraint Thomas gets to hang out in Southern California and here is what he had to say.
SCC: Welcome to Southern California. How are you liking it so far?
GT: I’ve been here for about three and a half weeks now. I was out with Cav (Mark Cavendish) and Cal Crutchlow (Moto GP racer). It’s great because it has everything I need you know. You don’t need massive climbs and the weather is generally good other than last week because of the rain but it was still warm though, it wasn’t anything like the UK. Yeah I’ve just really enjoyed it. I’ve done a lot of work. It’s just the diet and the rest. I’ve been training like I’ve been at training camp but the diet and the rest is not the same.
SCC: Is it (diet and rest) better or worse?
GT: It’s a lot worse. I’m not resting at all really, it’s been you know we went to a Rams game and then went to a Lakers game and done a bit of this and that. So I can of see it as training anyway you know when you don’t rest properly and the next day you’re a little bit more tired and you have to work a little bit harder and then when I go back to Europe or have a few training camps, off the bike will be just as focused as on it and we’ll go from there.
SCC: Do you know your race schedule for 2019?
GT: My first race was in Valencia and then we go to Tenerife and then I have Strada Bianchi (12th Place finish) and Tirreno Adriatico (DNF). I’m looking forward to racing again because It’s been a while.
SCC: How has your life been different since you won the Tour in terms of the way you are riding your bike or life off the bike?
GT: It’s just that I’ve had the biggest time off the bike than I’ve ever had which was probably the biggest thing. I’ve had seven weeks off which is a long time but also just getting to do loads of cool stuff. I’m a big fan of sports in general so I’ve met a lot of soccer players and swapped a few jerseys from them so I’ve got jersey from the World Cup final.
SCC: And did you give the soccer players your Team Sky Kit?
GT: So there is this French Striker (not sure if you know football).
SCC: Soccer yeah.
GT: So Olivier Giroud, I’ve swapped the yellow jersey with him and he gave me a jersey from the World Cup final this year. Obviously they won so it was just mental. I met Messi (Lionel Messi) after a champions league game where he scored a hat trick and he gave me his jersey from there. There were a few rugby players too.
SCC: Did they know you from the cycling world?
GT: Yeah which is crazy really. And I’m just still a fan of everything they do so to sort of be like have that mutual respect with each other which is crazy and then we went to a Patriots game back in October when we were on holiday and then we obviously went to the Rams recently so were like, a good luck omen with both teams at the Superbowl. So next year if an NFL team wants to invite us…
SCC: That means that they have to send some of their players to the Tour De France to cheer for you.
GT: (Laughs) Yeah that would be the day. But it’s just been mad lately keeping really busy doing loads of cool stuff.
SCC: Everybody wants to know if you are going to defend the Tour De France in 2019?
GT: Well, that’s the million dollar question I guess but. I’d love to try. I’m going to try to get the best shape that I can and then go from there. It will definitely be tough because nobody’s defended it after they’ve won it for the first time since Miguel Indurain back in 1991-92. Obviously Lance (Armstrong) did but that’s a bit wiped so yeah it’s like it shows how hard it is to win it for the first time and then win it again the very next year. So I’m definitely going to give it a go and I’m looking forward to it!
After our conversation the venue put on the Le Alpe Duez stage 12 of the Tour De France where the yellow Jersey Geraint Thomas had made a select group of the tour Favorites, Vincenzo Nibali crashing out and Thomas winning the stage. Even though most people knew the outcome no one knew what the group of riders were thinking or saying during those last few kilometers of the stage. With Thomas re watching the stage he was able to provide some insight. He mentioned during the times it appeared he was exchanging words with Bardet or Landa he would test them on occasion by saying “let’s do this”. Thomas clearly feeling strong had the form and it was quite surreal to catch his reaction to himself winning the stage. Hopefully in July, he will be able to have a repeat performance.