Opinion: Is Sky’s search for a classics rider over?

Geraint Thomas’s win at TDU impresses CNHD

This opinion piece comes from the latest edition of Cyclingnews HD.

There has been no shortage of speculation about what Geraint Thomas might be capable of now that he has followed Bradley Wiggins in consigning the track to his past. And on the outskirts of Adelaide he gave his clearest indication yet that what he might be capable of is mixing it with the very best.

Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under was set up to be one for the classics specialists, and with the summit of the 2.5km, 9.4 per cent Corkscrew climb within the last 10km – and a fast run in to the finish from the top – it was easy to see why men such as world champion Philippe Gilbert and Milan-Sanremo winner Simon Gerrans were touted as pre-race favourites.

But a young Thomas had a feel for the classics before turning back to the track, he is a former winner of the junior Paris-Roubaix and has featured well in the senior edition, and if his attack here on the Corkscrew told us anything it was that he has the ability to be much more than a flatlander.

The search
If there is a weakness in Sky’s armoury it is that they lack a true contender for the spring. Juan Antonio Flecha has been shown the door after failing to deliver, and although Edvald Boasson Hagen appears to have many of the right attributes, he seems to have found a place at Sky as a stage hunter and domestique de luxe at the grand tours. Ian Stannard – who came second to Thomas in that 2004 junior Roubaix – has shown enough to suggest he deserves the team’s support in the mud and cobbles races across the Belgian flatlands, but come Ardennes week Sky’s arsenal looks particularly weak.

It is here, and perhaps even at the Tour of Flanders, where Thomas suddenly looks to be shaping up into a contender. Sure, the stage he won in Australia was less than half the distance of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but with his track endurance background there is plenty to suggest his engine can be developed, and that finish will have warmed the hearts of coaches and fans alike.

His attack on the Corkscrew demonstrated both power and panache, and his tactics in the final did the same as he hung off the back before unleashing that track speed and keeping it through the finish line. “There is nothing to do but congratulate him,” said the beaten Javier Moreno afterwards.

Tour de force

Given that this was a man who wore the white jersey at the Tour in both 2010 and 2011, where he lost it to Robert Gesink after waiting for a stricken Bradley Wiggins, there is even the possibility that Sky might have ‘grander’ ambitions for the Welshman. Thomas has talked of “getting his track fat off” and has obviously been inspired by the success of former GB team-mate Bradley Wiggins, but the team will have to balance his desire to lose weight with his need to retain power.

In the immediate future, Sky are well served for stage race contenders, so whatever their long-term goals for Thomas they would do well to steer him in a direction that can help both them and him.

There has always been a suggestion that Thomas could figure in the mix at Roubaix in the future, but a first British winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège? If that’s not a goal to fan the flames of ambition in a man who knows how to deliver on his targets, then what is?</p>

Cycling News HD
Issue 39 of our digital magazine Cycling News HD is out now, and features stunning photography and exclusive analysis from the opening days of the 2013 season in Australia and Argentina, plus a look forward to the Tour Down Under’s crucial stages to come and an exclusive interview with Lotto-Belisol’s Adam Hansen .

Delivered to your iPad every Wednesday, Cycling News HD brings you the best all-new cycling photography in the world via the best medium for viewing it, as well as reports, results and exclusive analysis of all the week’s biggest races, in-depth previews of the races and stages to watch in the week ahead, interviews, news and opinion.

With over 50 pages packed with new and original content every Wednesday, alongside all the latest reports and results, Cycling News HD is the best way to enjoy a roadside seat at all the season’s biggest and best races.


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