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‘It’s not like I lost it’: Geraint Thomas on the Giro, crashes and a last Olympic hurrah
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‘It’s not like I lost it’: Geraint Thomas on the Giro, crashes and a last Olympic hurrah

Geraint Thomas heads to the start of 2024’s first Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia, determined to avenge the bitter tears of a year ago when he lost the race to Primoz Roglic in a dramatic final time trial. “It was a tough and challenging moment, but for me it wasn’t like I had a bad day or did anything drastically wrong,” he says.

“Roglic had a flyer and he deserved to win it. It’s not like I lost it – he won it. It was hard. You lead the Giro for half the race and then you lose by 15 seconds on the final day: it’s a tough one. But then as [the psychologist] Steve Peters would always say: ‘Life’s not fair. Get on with it.’”

Thomas has decided to race in the Giro, which starts in Turin next Saturday, and the Tour de France this summer. “I wanted to go back to the Giro after last year and the Tour is the Tour. In the back of my mind, I’d always thought: ‘Sod it, why don’t I just try to do both …?’”

Also in the back of his mind is one final hurrah in the Olympic Games. “I’d love to do one more Olympics, but I don’t want to go and just get another tracksuit,” he says. “I want to be good enough to be in with a shout of a medal. I’ve got four tracksuits already – I don’t need another one.”

First, though, comes the Giro and the prospect of trying to derail the seemingly unstoppable Tadej Pogacar, the dominant force this spring. “Pogacar is the massive favourite, but stranger things have happened,” Thomas says. “It’s three weeks – it’s different to any other race. Anyone can have a bad day.”

So can the wily seasoned pro derail the Pogacar express? “Possibly,” he replies, “but I’m not one to play mind games. I’ll be doing my thing – try to stay consistent, good and strong all the way through. He’s a racer and he just loves winning. When he retires he’s going to be one of the greatest of all time.”

Speaking as he puts the final touches to his pre-Giro race preparation at the Tour of the Alps, the Welsh rider, like most of his peers, has race safety on his mind after a series of bad crashes sidelined big names such as Jonas Vingegaard – the Tour de France winner in the past two years – Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel and Roglic.

“Everyone’s talking about this now because big-name riders have crashed, but it’s been happening for years,” he says. “Racing’s got that danger element already, but I feel like it could do so much more to increase safety. There’s road furniture, traffic calming, kerbs sticking out, all that kind of stuff. That adds an element of danger as well. When you’re in it, if I thought about it, I’d be at the back [of the peloton]. You wouldn’t be racing, you couldn’t do it.”

Geraint Thomas (centre) rides the Tour of the Alps.View image in fullscreen

Thomas’s words prove prophetic. Only 48 hours later during the Tour of the Alps, the Australian rider Chris Harper crashed on a fast descent and slewed head first into an unprotected lamp-post. Fortunately the 29-year-old escaped with only superficial wounds and a concussion. “Ninety per cent of the guys won’t know the roads [in this race],” Thomas says. “You’re going down these descents, flying down them. If this was a new sport, there’s no way it would be allowed.’”

Thomas fully supports the public statement made by the Ineos Grenadiers owner, Jim Ratcliffe, who in mid-April issued a public plea for a ramping up of cycling’s safety protocols. “Cyclists are always going to push things to the limit as they are elite sportsmen,” Ratcliffe said, before urging David Lappartient, the president of the world governing body, the UCI, to “ensure the safety of the sport”.

Lappartient’s recent comments, that “50% of the crashes” are down to what he called the “attitude” of the riders do not sit well with Thomas, even if he acknowledges that some riders take risks he wouldn’t. “I think Lappartient needs to focus more on the 50% he can affect,” Thomas says. “I agree with what he says, but it just doesn’t make sense to me even saying it. That means 50% is still down to him and organisers to do everything they can.”

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Ratcliffe, meanwhile, may have big plans for Manchester United but Thomas says that another Tour de France victory is also on his mind. “Jim really wants to win the Tour,” he says. “Fair play – that is the ultimate and that’s what we’re trying to do. It might take a couple of years, but I still believe that this team can get back there.”

Thomas, a longstanding Arsenal fan, said he and Ratcliffe exchanged messages after the billionaire’s majority acquisition of United became a reality. “When the deal went through, he messaged me on Christmas Eve and said: ‘United’s happening.’ I was like: ‘Ah sweet – I hope you come a strong second to Arsenal.’ He just replied: ‘Ouch.’”

Thomas’s old team principal Sir David Brailsford, although dedicating much of his time to Ratcliffe’s Manchester project, remains in contact. “I get the impression he still massively misses the team,” Thomas says. “It’s his baby really – he started it.

“He’s still really passionate about the sport. He gives me a ring every now and then. He’s still involved but just has a lot of other things going on. It is kind of strange when you see Dave on Sky Sports sat next to Sir Alex Ferguson. But he loves it. He loves a big challenge. He goes all in.”

Source: theguardian.com