THE BIG INTERVIEW: GERAINT THOMAS
After a golden year on the track, world team pursuit champion Geraint Thomas is planning to follow the example of Bradley Wiggins and concentrate on road racing for a while — once the Beijing Olympics are out of the way.
He is not giving up on the track totally, but Thomas, who won gold with Ed Clancy, Wiggins and Paul Manning at the World Championships in Manchester, is set to go from hero to also-ran as he returns to his ‘day job’ of riding for Barloworld.
The Welshman will follow team orders when he rides in the Giro d’Italia and around the Continental circuit this summer before returning to Britain and a training camp at Newport’s Welsh National Velodrome in July.
But, he insists, he is his own man and will not miss out on the chance of a stage win just to help team-mates like Robbie Hunter over the line.
CW: Congratulations on yet another gold medal at the track World Championships. Obviously you’ve got the Beijing Olympics coming up, but what are your plans looking
GT: I’m definitely hungry for the road now and, whether it is the track or the road, it is good to try something else and start fresh again. The team is good and they are very happy to get me racing again.
I’ve been very busy recently, and I was quite tired in the first few weeks back. But, I’ve got the Giro d’Italia coming up and the training programme is very good for all the team.
In the Giro and the Tour de France, the racing is of a lot higher standard than some other races, and I have to keep my feet on the ground in that respect with the team. So, after this year and after the Olympics, I will focus on the road for two years — as Bradley Wiggins did after the Athens Olympics.
It doesn’t mean I’m not going to do the track anymore; it’s just that I want to give the road a go. I’ll return to the track a year or so before the London Olympics to concentrate on that. That will mean a year out from the road. The track is always going to be on my mind and I will be working on it during the winter.
You are growing up a lot now, in cycling terms. Even though you have only been with Barloworld for a year, do you think it is time to take the next step and become a lead rider?
GT: I’m always happy to help out with team duties when there is someone like Robbie Hunter there, but if I get the chance, I want to be able to take it.
Did the hectic track season, which saw you flying around the world, take it out of you?
GT: It has taken me a while to get back into it on the road. I was down as a reserve for Barloworld in the Paris-Roubaix, which I would have loved to ride, but the way the track Worlds fell it gave me only two and a half weeks to prepare for it. And, going from the track where you are doing a maximum of 3km, to go 260km from Paris to Roubaix would have been asking a lot of me, especially with the Giro and a five-day stage race in Portugal coming up.
You have won a lot even though you are still only 21. Nicole Cooke did the same. Do you get casual about getting medals now?
GT: No, not at all. You definitely don’t get used to winning. Look at the World Cup this year in Copenhagen, for example. We were under a bit of pressure because we qualified second, but we were controlled and still confident we could go out there and do the job. But, we were in Denmark and against a Danish team who qualified fastest, so there was pressure on us. But, it was good to keep us on our toes.
It helped to remind us that it is not easy just to turn up and knock out times, especially with Steven Burke, the young lad, stepping in. Me, Steve and Ed are all under 21, and then we had Paul Manning as the old boy in the race. It just shows the strength in depth, and shows we are all in good form ready for the Worlds and Olympics now.
Then Bradley came in for the Worlds, and that’s good because all the competition pushes people forward and keeps everyone vying for those places. It would be easy if there were just four good riders in our team pursuit squad. You could relax a bit. But that’s when you end up losing, so it’s good that we are always on our toes.
We are always training hard and, at the end of the day, we are really strong as a unit and so, yeah, it’s going well.
Are you sorted out with a new road deal yet?
GT: I haven’t got a contract next year as I’m signed up to the end of this year, so a few decent results would be good. Everything is going really well so I can’t see a problem at the minute, but I still want to perform and show people what I can do. The team is really supportive and they let me train with GB all the time up to the Worlds. Now I’m back with them. It’s a really good relationship.
You and Nicole are right up there now as cycling icons in Wales. Do you see it that way yourself, in that you are leading the way for the sport?
GT: I think it is good for the younger riders to have someone to look up to. It shows them that it is not impossible to ride the Tour de France and fulfil your dreams in the sport. Especially people like Luke Rowe, who I’ve trained with since I was a kid. I know him and his brother Matt really well, and I think it just gives them that confidence to keep pushing.