Cycling Weekly is counting down the top 30 British Riders of the Year thoughout December. The top 10 will be revealed in the December 19 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine.
NUMBER 22: GERAINT THOMAS
Hard as nails
Having sacrificed most of the 2012 road season so he could concentrate on winning the team pursuit at the London Olympics, Geraint Thomas was itching to get back on the road and see if he could pick up where he left off in 2011.
The early signs were very encouraging. He won the second stage of the Tour Down Under and held the leader’s ochre jersey until the race reached its new uphill finish at Old Willunga Hill on the penultimate day.
Thomas finished third overall, behind Tom-Jelte Slagter and Javier Moreno, and won the points competition, which suggested he was on course for a strong spring Classics campaign.
Fourth place at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad offered further encouragement, although he missed out on Luca Paolini’s winning move and lost out in the sprint for third place. A month later, and with the major cobbled Classics just around the corner, he was fourth in the Grand Prix E3 at Harelbeke, finishing with Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss after Fabian Cancellara had launched his powerful, now trademark, winning move.
However, the biggest Classics are as much about timing, positioning and luck as they are strength and class and, when it came to the critical stages of both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Thomas found himself on the floor after a crash.
At the Tour of Flanders, he crashed as they approached the Oude Kwaremont. In Paris-Roubaix, he fell as they neared sector 14 of the pavé, just as the race was hotting up. Consider too that he crashed at a critical stage of Milan-San Remo and it was looking less like misfortune.
However, Thomas’s position in our countdown of riders of the year owes everything to his performance at the Tour de France.
The Welshman crashed on the first stage, in Corsica, suffering a hairline fracture of his pelvis - an injury that should have kept him out of the race.
But he carried on, with all the pundits predicting throughout the first week that the next day would be his last.
Instead he battled on, determined to reach the Champs-Elysees alongside the Tour champion Chris Froome, having missed the 2012 race when Bradley Wiggins won.
If his determination is rewarded he is due some good luck - or at least the avoidance of bad fortune - in 2014.
British Riders of the Year 2013: Related links
23: Lizzie Armitstead
24: Jason Kenny
25: Evan Oliphant
Number 26: Ian Stannard
Number 27: Kenta Gallagher
Number 28: Emily Kay
Number 29: Owain Doull
Number 30: Katie Colclough