One never wants to tempt fate, but for Geraint Thomas, there’s reason to believe that 2014 would have to roll more smoothly than 2013.
The scrappy Welshman crashed out of contention in several cobbled races in frozen northern Europe last spring, and went down hard enough on stage 1 of the Tour de France to fracture his pelvis.
Not that he abandoned. Oh no. Thomas hung on and rode himself back into something resembling tolerance. He was even able to help his team in the Alps as it defended Chris Froome against all comers.
It was a bumpy season, but Thomas’ toughness is now the stuff of legend. He is back on his bike now after a break, looking toward those races that were a bit rough on him last year. The break, he said, is always welcome.
“It was pretty busy actually. Just went back to the U.K. for a couple of weeks, seeing friends and family … just things like that really,” he told VeloNews. “Was just normal for a few weeks. Ate and drunk whatever I felt like. Was still pretty busy though. … It was good. I went to Tokyo as well to do the crit out there. That was nice to go out there with my girlfriend and see that. That was somewhere I always wanted to go.”
At this point, Thomas is starting to focus down the road. The 27-year-old has big talent and big promise. On the road, he held the white jersey in the Tour in 2010 and 2011 and finished 10th at the Ronde van Vlanderen (Tour of Flanders) in 2011. In 2012, he won gold in the team pursuit at the London Olympics and also won a world championship in the same discipline. Last year, he finished third at the Santos Tour Down Under, fourth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and fourth at E3 Harelbeke, though he crashed from contention at Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“I had a few shitty crashes last year,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to another year on the road, really, and not really thinking about the track.”
Thomas will open up his season at the Tour Down Under, and build from there. “I really like going down there to start the year. The weather’s good. Obviously, it’s good, hard racing. Then I’ve got Paris-Nice into the classics. I’m just really looking forward to all those races, and like I say, I’m really motivated at the moment to get in good shape for that,” he said.
Certainly, he’ll be looking to shake the bad luck of last season, and use Sky’s prowess and pragmatic training for the classics campaign to his advantage. He’s one of the strongest one-day riders on a squad that, while it lacks a true leader, has plenty of men good enough to win on any given day.
“It felt like going into the classics I had good form,” he said of last season. “It was also kind of a case that every race we did felt like the first race of the season, with the big gaps in between. And like you say, a couple of crashes — there’s not many guys who can crash and get back and be able to shout, really, unless it’s Fabian (Cancellara) or (Peter) Sagan, or someone really special. We learned from that as well, how we raced together and things. Hopefully we can definitely make amends.”
After that, it’ll be guns blazing for another Tour de France bid. For Sky, the tensions couldn’t be higher come July. Many expect the British super squad to defend the jersey and Chris Froome against the entire peloton, and the team must do so under intense media scrutiny, both from international and British reporters.
“The Tour is the Tour, isn’t it? It’s the biggest bike race in the world, and you always want to be a part of that, especially on a team that has the likes of Froomey, and Brad (Wiggins), and Richie (Porte),” Thomas said. “It’s great to be in the mix there, and with them, and riding for them. Once the classics are done, it’s full gas up to the Tour.”
It’s no doubt Sky will have its foot firmly on the gas pedal. If all the cars stay upright, Thomas and his teammates will be tough to deal with.