Geraint Thomas finished Paris-Roubaix yesterday but not before marking a hat trick of inopportune crashes at spring Monuments in which he had a leadership role for the first time with team Sky.
Thomas had nailed it through the early cobble sections, leading the peloton at a point, but his run of untimely misfortune continued in northern France.
The 26-year-old was involved in a pile-up on sector 14 as the race was “just getting into the thick of it.”
Thomas had targeted the Tour of Flanders, which he finished 10th in 2011, but a stack there was also costly. It came after the Beijing and London Olympic track gold medalist was held up some 30km from the finish of Milan-San Remo again at a critical moment of the race.
“(Flanders) was just bad luck but this time I should have been a bit more forward in the group,” Thomas told Cycling Weekly after finishing 14 minutes and 34 seconds behind winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) for 79th.
“But it’s just such a fight, it’s hard to be in front for every sector,” he continued. “I had hit the curb a few times and nearly crashed probably a good five times before that one anyway. I think that shows with these races as well you can be as fit as possible and then something like that can happen and it can all be over.”
Sky has taken positives from its spring campaign notably driven by an unconventional preparation programme based heavily on sports science and substituting some stage races for training. It’s a technique loosely based on the groundwork the team’s hugely successful Tour de France group has done. The goal is to win a one-day title within the next three years.
The infancy of the project makes it hard to describe Sky’s cobbled Classics run as a failure although Thomas is among those to admit it could have done better.
“I knew it would be difficult but I think podium for sure was doable, especially for myself in Flanders,” he said.
“Here we’ve got plenty of guys who are capable of doing that but when you look at the GC guys it’s not like that happened overnight either. It takes a lot of hard work and it took them three years to win the Tour.
“I think it’s been successful in that I’m going the best I’ve gone before and learning a lot. It’s the first time I’ve ridden as a leader as well. That’s a big change for me because I’m a seventh year pro now, which sounds old, but those six years I was always riding for other people, never thinking about myself really. There’s a lot more to come, and with the training as well. We’ve only really been doing it since December.
“The progression over the next year will continue and we’ll just be that much better this time next year and hopefully have a bit more luck on our side.”
Roubaix veteran Mathew Hayman was covered in dust, exhausted and initially appeared disorientated at the finish having worked hard in a small break. He was caught with around 50km remaining and just before the defining group moved. The Australian said the team’s decision to employ multiple leaders, instead of one protected rider, was not a disadvantage.
Podium hope Ian Stannard suffered an early puncture yesterday and crashed twice. He was able to rejoin the field but ultimately expended too much energy in doing so. Hayman suggested positioning throughout the race cost the team as much as anything.
“Bernie (Eisel) was the only one in a good position when we turned into the Mons-en-Pevele and he gets to ride the final,” Hayman said of the Austrian who was 12th. “But Edvald (Boasson Hagen) and Ian, and I haven’t spoken to them, they might not have had it but you need to be near the front there.
“If (Zdenek) Stybar and (Stijn) Vandenbergh were there you would have hoped Stannard and Boasson Hagen would have been. But Ian had a difficult start.
“Any other team it would probably be okay but this team, you see what Richie (Porte) and the other guys are doing, they win everywhere, and that’s the goal.”