Geraint Thomas Interview: Olympic gold medallist speaks
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Geraint Thomas Interview: Olympic gold medallist speaks

by Ed Hood at 6:20 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Track, Olympics
Sky rider looks back and track and road season

Geraint ThomasIf you wondered where Sky and Wales strongman Geraint Thomas disappeared to after the Giro, the answer is simple – he was riding endless laps of deserted velodromes in pursuit of Olympic gold.

His road programme was put on ‘hold’ as he began the brutal and boring regime that it takes to retain an Olympic track title – in Thomas’s case the team pursuit.

But the effort was worth it as Thomas, partnered by fellow Beijing gold team pursuit medallist, Ed Clancy plus Sky team mate Peter Kennaugh and Beijing games individual pursuit bronze medallist, Steven Burke retained the title; breaking their own world record twice in the process.

Going back to 2003, a clutch of medals in the British junior track championships announced Thomas’s arrival; within a year he was world junior scratch champion and had won the junior edition of Paris-Roubaix.

The following year he was British senior scratch champion; had won two UIV cups (U23 six day races) and was performing well on the road.

By 2006 he was European team pursuit champion and had a silver medal in the same discipline at world level – a stage and GC win in Luxembourg’s Fleche du Sud showed that his road talent was also building nicely.

The progression continued the following season when he signed with Claudio Corti’s Barloworld team and ended the year as the youngest finisher in that edition of the Tour de France, as well as being world team pursuit champion.

Olympic year saw him defend his world title and net Beijing gold as a member of the fastest squad ever.

On the road, his Grand Tour experience was further extended with a ride in the Giro.

The highlight of 2009 was an (albeit short lived) world record 4 minutes 15 for the individual pursuit – but no Grand Tours due to Barloworld not receiving invitations.

Thomas switched to Sky for 2010, and rode a strong Dauphine plus an excellent Tour.

He did the latter whilst clad in the jersey of British elite road race champion – except for a spell in white as best young rider.

The 2011 season saw the versatile man from Cardiff back on the boards at the World Cup in Manchester with team pursuit gold and individual pursuit silver the result.

Importantly, he was able to mix road and track; the day after a tough Tour of Sardinia he took a strong sixth in the Classica Sarda, before riding a highly visible Paris-Nice where it was his lead out skills which guided team mate Greg Henderson to his stage win.

His strongest showing of the year however was his second place behind Saxo Bank’s ‘back from the dead’ Nick Nuyens in Dwars Door Vlaanderen – with the Belgian going on the win the Ronde.

Thomas finished 10th in the race any Flemish rider would give his right arm to win.

Then there was a GC win in the Bayern Rundfahrt, a silver medal behind a rampant Bradley Wiggins in the British Elite Road Race Championship, another Tour finish and a key role in Mark Cavendish’s Copenhagen Worlds triumph.

There was little ‘off’ season for Thomas as he moved back to the boards for the European Team Pursuit Championship.

The team won; but was outside the magical four minutes barrier – to the chagrin of the GB management.

There was World Cup defeat for the GB squad in London in February at the hands of arch rivals, Australia.

But by the Worlds on the Aussie’s home ground in Melbourne, the tables turned and it was GB taking the rainbow jerseys on the plane home.

Thomas also paired with Ben Swift – who won the scratch title at the championships – to win silver in the madison.

Carrying forward the speed, Thomas won the prologue of the Tour of Romandie and was second in the opening and closing time trials of the Giro – to BMC men Taylor Phinney and Marco Pinotti, respectively.

And then it was time to go indoors for the summer.

Coming back to the road at the Vattenfall Classic was a shock to his system but he took second in the time trial stage of the Tour of Denmark before posting two DNF in the Canadian UCI races.

His Worlds team time trial effort came to an abrupt end with a jammed chain and with a paucity of road miles under his tires he felt there was little point in riding the road race.

VeloNation caught up with him at the Franco-Belge as he prepared for the last races oh his season.

VeloNation: May to August; that’s a lot of preparation for three rides over four kilometres, Geraint.

Geraint Thomas: It’s longer than that!

The build-up really started in November after we won the Europeans; we had a bit of a break, which I needed because I’d been racing since the Tour Down Under through the Classic and the Tour.

Then we had boot camp to prepare for the Worlds in Australia in April and then into the Giro in May.

As soon as I’d recovered from the Giro it was time to start the London build up.

It’s intense training, building power – the gears are so big, now.

The final taper starts 10 days out with no road work, just track and turbo and then the final seven days there’s a lot of rest involved – it’s easy to mess that up by wandering about and it’s a constant fight with boredom.

The fact that you have five or six guys in the squad helps – but it’s still monotonous when you’re doing three or four hours in three sessions, each day on the track, with the first one at 08:00 am.

Geraint ThomasVN: There are three rides in the Olympic team pursuit competition – as opposed to two at the Worlds.

GT: It doesn’t really affect things, the semis and finals are on the same day – that’s the same format as at the Worlds.

The training we do takes into consideration that aspect – and Pete (Kennaugh) and I tend to go better in the second ride due to our road background.

VN: Can you tell us anything about the new clothing and equipment?

GT: Not really, I’m not much into the tech side; it just gets handed to us, we rock up, race round and try and stay healthy!

It’s when you add all the little things up that the difference is made – the clothing, equipment, diet, training . . .

My frame had the same saddle height and reach as Beijing, they have the new fork crowns but all that wacky stuff has Chris Boardman behind it.

For us it’s largely psychological – if you have nice new kit it makes you feel good and at an advantage.

VN: I read you said you were close to ‘revving out’ in the final?

GT: Definitely; and that’s with the gears going up, year on year – we rode 106” in Beijing, 108” in London.

And I could have done with a bit more to lean on – it’s OK for Burkey; he can spin but coming from the road like Pete and I it’s more difficult.

VN: Did you think things would have been closer with the Aussies in the final?

GT: By the time the final came round we were confident that we could beat them, if we did the ride we were capable of.

We had thought that the Aussies might break our record which we set in Melbourne, in qualifying – but they didn’t.

They were going very well in Melbourne, maybe they misjudged their build up – but I don’t really care!

VN: Is the next generation of GB team pursuiters on the way up?

GT: To tell the truth, I don’t know – we were too focused on the job in hand.

There’s our fifth man, Andy Tennant and Sam Harrison is on the way.

But remember that for Rio in 2016 we may well have Brad back – and perhaps Cav, too.

VN: Was there any sense of anti-climax, after the Games, the hype was just so overwhelming?

GT: To be honest, I was glad when it was over.

But I enjoyed the whole bit, the preparation, the racing and going out and being successful.

I didn’t have much time to reflect, I was back to my day job very quickly.

Maybe if it was another sport, like rowing, where it’s a long time until your next competition you’d have time to slide – but I had the Worlds TTT to prepare for.

VN: How was your first race back?

GT: That was the Vattenfall Classic and I felt terrible.

I only rode the bike three times in the fortnight after the team pursuit final – I was celebrating and not paying attention to what I was eating and drinking.

So the Vattenfall was a shock to the system, but it was good to get back in the grove.

The races in Canada were tough, I can cope with long flights but it’s still not easy.

VN: You turned in a good TT in the Tour of Denmark.

GT: Yeah, I was second to Westra – even though I had two weeks off I had super form before that.

It wasn’t like I was creeping, and 16K is a perfect distance for me – with all the track work I’d done.

VN: The Worlds TTT wasn’t so good, though?

GT: No, my chain came off and jammed between the chainstay and the chainring – not the best!

Geraint ThomasVN: What’s your last race?

GT: Paris-Tours by way of the Franco-Belge and Paris-Bourges.

We have Flecha going well and of course Ian Stannard was fourth last year, so we have good morale going into it – it’s not like we’re just ‘turning up.’

VN: What are your thoughts on 2013?

GT: The Classics figure, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders – finishing 10th in 2011 gave me a lot of confidence; it’s my favourite race.

The Tour is a massive goal of course; we want to take yellow, again.

The Worlds TT is in my mind – but we’ll have to see how that develops.

And I’d love to ride the Worlds road race, again.

VN: And what about that post-Olympic party?

GT: Which one?

That seemed like a good place to stop…


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