Talk Time: Geraint Thomas, British & Olympic Champion

By Larry Hickmott. Some riders burst onto the scene like a certain Mark Cavendish whilst others  take the patient approach like one of the hottest British riders in the ProTour peloton right now, the British Road Race Champion, Geraint Thomas.

Geraint has sort of snuck in under the radar and is now a rider Team Sky look to in the big races where as at the start of the Team Sky project, he was more or less in the background as all the foreign stars held the lime light.  In fact, I’ve watched his progress since he was competing in Junior Peter Buckley Trophy events (National Series). In 2005, he was in the GB Academy and in the years that followed, I remember the teenager suffering in the big road races like the Tour of Britain.

He is no overnight success but for sure is now becoming one of the top riders in the peloton. It was a few years ago now that Geraint was leading Team Barloworld onto the Champs Elysees in Paris and finishing his first Tour de France at 21 years of age. He was then signed up for Team Sky when it was launched in 2010 but Geraint at that point was not seen by the media at least, as one of the top stars.

Asked to comment on this, Geraint says “at the start they (management) had to sign big foreign names to get results straight away and that allowed the likes of me, Swifty and Stannard to work for the other guys and learn from them. That has made a massive difference. Now we have been give some opportunities, we’re showing that we can take them. I think in a few years times, it will be the Brits that everyone is talking about.”

Geraint, who is still only 24 remember, won his first big pro race last year, the British Road Race Championship (above) and as well as the White jersey in the Tour de France, the young Welshman has found himself among the leaders of the Team Sky squad at some monuments in pro racing. And I repeat, he’s only 24!

Last year  was a break through year for Geraint. He moved from Barloworld to Team Sky and those surroundings have suited him. He is working with the same coach he was working with back in 2005 at the GB Academy, Rod Ellingworth and now he’s able to relax, chill out and have fun and ‘G’ likes to have fun! If you haven’t seen his ‘man up’ videos on his website then go and pay them a visit, everyone from Lance Armstrong to his director Sportif Sean Yates has been featured.

Talking about the second year for Team Sky, Geraint says “Logistically, its  a lot smoother and everyone knows each other now. There has also been a lot less talk about us with Leopold, Garmin and Cervelo joining up and so on. That‘s worked in our favour as we’ve been able to just get on with the job.  We know each other a lot better now like how we all react in a race, our strengths in different situations and we have just got that bond now.”

“We’re just a good group of lads that enjoy racing with each other and that helps a lot. “

But if 2010 was a good year for Geraint, 2011 is proving to be another step up the ladder towards him winning some big races and becoming a player in the very highest echelon in ProTour races.  VeloUK caught up with Geraint when he turned up at the Good Friday track open at Manchester Velodrome recently where he won the Derny race. Having been on the road since January, the Olympic Track Champion was enjoying being able to relax with friends and family.

The highlight, says Geraint, so far this year was his top 10 in the monument that is the Tour of Flanders. “Getting a top 10 and being at the front with 5k to go and racing for the win was unbelievable. I was racing for Flecha but it is still something you dream of doing. I grew up watching this race, a hard race with all those cobbles and climbs that everyone has heard of.”

“At the time, I was a bit excited to be there and got carried away at times but I have that belief and confidence now that I have to now keep putting myself in the positions like that and a big win isn’t too far away.”

Flashback: 2005 and Rod Ellingworth gives his riders including Geraint the orders for a training day. All of them bar one are pro riders now.

Geraint admits that with such races, the team has to go into it with a strong plan and that on the day, they rode really well as a team. “We always had guys up the road which was the plan which allowed Flecha and me to take it easy.  You still have to be ready to improvise though , that’s road racing.”

“Early on I was able to sit 100 back in the peloton but when the climbs started you need to be top 30 or 40 and then at the crucial parts, you need to be right at the front. There are just certain parts of the race where you just have to be up there where you spend energy to save energy.”

“Because of the narrow roads and crashes as well as riders unclipping and so on, you don‘t want to be behind and chasing all the time.”

You also need luck says the former Cardiff JIF rider. “In Flanders I was fortunate that I didn’t really have anything go wrong unlike Roubaix where I crashed three times in 20k. Fortunately in  Roubaix, I had people riding for me to help me get on but that still wasn‘t enough.”

Flashback: Geraint Thomas in the Junior Tour of the Peaks riding in the green of Cardiff JIF.

As a former winner of Paris-Roubaix as a Junior, G admits that the two races, the Junior version and the Pro version are worlds apart. “The distance, the speed, the team and the tactics, it‘s all so different“ he says. “As a junior, you can ride on your own and win it but with the pros, you have got to have a real strong team and communicate well, help each other with position on the road and so on.”

The classis are huge part of Geraint’s future, races he has a passion for and a real need to win but for now, they are history and his next big goal is to gain selection for the Tour de France where last year he had such a great start with the white jersey and his ride with the likes of Cancellara on the ‘Roubaix’ stage.

Geraint is restarting his season after his break with the Tour of Romandy and will then have an altitude training camp in Tenerife before Bayern-Rundfahrt, Criterium du Dauphine and then, if selected, the Tour de France.

After his performances this year, and his strength in the time trial, the ifs and buts surrounding his selection for Le Tour are just being polite to the other riders on the team I think. Geraint really does seem to have earnt his place in the race where he says the Team Time Trial on the 3rd of July (a Sunday), will be very important to the team and where he feels Team Sky can be strong. That stage follows a road stage of nearly 200 kilometres which is different to the normal start of a short prologue.

Flash back: Tour of Britain a few years ago now and the mix of academy riders and pros (Roger Hammond) are given a briefing by then GB manager John Herety.

Prior to the Tour though, there is a small matter of the Northern Rock Cyclone British Road Race Championships in the North East.

Going into the 2010 Tour de France, Geraint was wearing the jersey of British champion which he won in Lancashire on a very tough course which split the big peloton from the word go. Having that jersey on his back he admits has been special. “It’s a massive buzz. You’re representing the country every race you go to. It gives you that boost when you get off the bus knowing you have the jersey on. It brings you up like when you’re wearing a jersey in a stage race, like the Yellow or the White jersey. It definitely gives you that motivation.”

In 2011, Geraint is definitely looking to try and defend that jersey in the North East at the ‘Cyclone’ event. “I’ll definitely be there to  race it and to try and win. But, it’s the nationals and anything can happen. Last year we went away on the first lap and stayed away and I won it. This year though it is a different type of course and there’s the domestic guys like Rob Partridge (Endura) and Kristian House (Rapha) and so there will be a lot of pressure on us to win it. We (the Brits in team Sky) all want to win it but hopefully we won’t work against each other!”

Post Tour, Geraint does hope he can be in form for the World Road Championships where he can help Mark Cavendish try and win the rainbow jersey and that may mean he’ll get a ride in the Tour of Britain where the Welsh stage finishes just down the road from his parent’s house.

Geraint’s attention will then turn to the track and London 2012. Why the track? “Because that is my best chance of winning a Gold medal“ he says. “I am not sure you can do both with the way the Team Pursuit is now so fast“ he explains.

2011 and the World Cup and all the riders have G’s name on their skinsuits! Leading the string is Geraint.

Going for Gold though will mean big sacrifices for some one who has such passion for the classics and the desire to win one. Whilst the Olympics are later in the year (2012), there is the matter of the Track Worlds (Australia) where Sir Chris Hoy admitted in an interview to come on VeloUK, he expects GB to be riding. At least the sprinters.

It remains to be seen whether GB send their Olympic endurance squad to the Melbourne World Championships but as Geraint admits,  London only comes around once in a lifetime. “ I just want to do the best run in to the Olympics I can and while I love the classics, if that means doing the Track Worlds then so be it. I’m still only 24 so I have a long way to go in my road career.”

Geraint admits that even over a year from the Olympics, it is hard not to think about London 2012. “Everyone talks about London and  the Olympics but I’m still concentrating on the here and now although I have spoken to Dan (Hunt) about it.”

And it is just the track he’s looking at for London 2012 right now saying “I cope going from the road to the track quite well. I only had two weeks on the track during the winter and we were going pretty fast. It is a challenge but I think because I have done it so much, it comes back that much easier.”

“But, it is harder going to the road from the track. I am coping with it a lot better now than when I was younger knowing what I need to do and staying lighter.”

Whatever happens in London 2012 though, Geraint knows he has a bright future on the road saying “the classics are just unbelievable and I dream of winning them one day. I can also see myself doing well in some big stages in races like the Tour of Dauphine. I don’t see why not. I have got the legs I just need a little luck. I don’t go into each race thinking I need to win it because it is more a question of when, not if.”

Geraint’s Charity Ride

Sadly, my girlfriend Sara’s grandad, or Taid as he was known, passed away three weeks ago, after suffering from two mini strokes and dementia.  Obviously it has been a tough time for Sa and her family, and after witnessing first hand the effects of these illnesses Sa has decided to organise a charity bike ride to raise awareness and money towards research into both dementia and strokes. Now, it obviously has to be a challenge! So Sa’s roped me into riding a tandem with her from her house in Cardiff to Denbeigh cricket club, in North Wales. It’s about 160 miles in total which we are going to try and cover in a day! We are doing it on Saturday the 30th of July, so hopefully I will have done a lap of France by then as training, I’m just hoping Sa will have done something other than sunbathe!

Anyone is welcome to join us along the way, as long as you donate!! We’re already being joined by Sa’s dad, brother, my best mate, my dad, my brother and whoever else she can persuade! Once we know the exact route I’ll put it up on my website. If you would like to join us on the ride or just donate please contact Gayle Howells at who can give you further information.

Any help or donations would be greatly appreciated. Here’s the link

Good Luck to Geraint for the rest of 2011

Geraint on Twitter
Geraint Thomas Website:
Team Sky Website

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