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British champion Geraint Thomas (Sky) put in an impressive performance.
Team Sky's young gun looking forward to higher goals
Geraint Thomas of Team Sky has experienced a great 2010 season, providing him with plenty of confidence to pursue his future goals. The 24-year-old revealed the depth of his talent at the Tour of Flanders, finishing alongside his teammate Juan Antonio Flecha, before taking the British road championship title and wearing the white jersey of best young rider at the Tour de France.
These achievements exceeded his early expectations. "The Classics were races I was looking to focus on during the spring and thankfully they went better than expected," Thomas said when asked for a season re-cap. "I came into form at Flanders and it was great to finish in the first big group given that I had never ridden that race before and only had limited experience on the cobbles.
"At the Dauphiné I posted a good prologue and then ran third the following day which put me in the green jersey. Those types of results really boosted my confidence."
The UK National Championships not only saw Thomas win the road race, but also three Sky riders finishing on the podium.
"Winning at the nationals was definitely the high-point of my road racing career up to now," he said. "There was a lot of pressure on us to perform as a team even though we were without two of our stronger riders in Bradley Wiggins and Steve Cummings.
"To get first, second and third was amazing and to be on the podium with two of my mates at the end made it that extra bit special."
The Welshman's form continued into the Tour de France and his second-placed finish on stage three to Arenberg saw him leap to the top of the young riders' classification and stay there for a further three days.
"Stage three was an unbelievable day and definitely my highlight of the Tour. To be drilling it alongside the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans was a real buzz and to be going for a stage win was a dream come true.
"On one of the final cobbled sections I was able to take it all in and seeing the British flags and hearing people shouting my name was a massive boost. To run second in a sprint behind Thor Hushovd was really pleasing and topping the young riders' classification was the icing on the cake."
Thomas even came within 20 seconds of the yellow jersey by finishing in the lead group on the sixth stage into Gueugnon, and although he was unable to make it onto the top step of the podium, he is hopeful of achieving that goal in the years to come.
"When [race leader] Fabian Cancellara got dropped from the same group as me on stage seven, it was exciting to think I was in with a chance of the yellow but it didn't quite happen in the end because of [stage winner] Sylvain Chavanel's great display.
"I went out there and gave it my best shot, though, and hopefully it will happen at some stage. I've still got a few years left in me yet..." the Welshman said.
"That whole first week was such a brilliant experience and it was weird to watch the highlights every day and see my name so high up the GC, but obviously really nice as well."
In 2011, Thomas will be looking to build on his experiences and improve his ability as an all-round rider although he refused to be drawn into one specific category. "I've still got a lot to learn and I'm not really looking to specialise in one specific area just now, I'll keep doing a bit of everything and taking my chances wherever I can get them.
"I've gained so much confidence this year and my only aim is to keep improving," he said. "With the Olympics coming up in 2012 I will be entering a [track] World Cup race in February and that should allow me to hit the ground running.
"The Classics are going to be an important part of my season again and I'll be doing all I can to help the likes of Juan Antonio Flecha, Mathew Hayman and Edvald Boasson Hagen. If I can target a few prologues as well at races like Paris-Nice or the Dauphiné that would be great, and obviously I'd love to ride the Tour again."