Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has no regrets about celebrating his Tour de France victory long and hard into winter, finding the recent suffering he has needed to get back to form as "sadistic" but enjoyable.
Thomas only raced the Deutschland Tour and the Tour of Britain after winning Tour de France, and was determined to savour every minute of the celebrations despite warnings from Team Sky to watch his weight and keep riding. Thomas was visibly heavier than his racing weight at the Saitama and Shanghai criteriums in November, and only got back into regular training in early December.
He has since done blocks of training in Los Angeles, raced the Vuelta a Valenciana in Spain and spent time at altitude on Mount Teide. He has lost much of the weight he gained during the winter but is not yet competitive in races.
“It was definitely worth it. You never know how often you're going to win the Tour. It could be the last race I ever win, so at least I enjoyed it,” Thomas said before Tirreno-Adriatico, where he'll share team leadership with Wout Poels.
“I knew it was going to be really hard work, but that's what I enjoy in a bit of a sadistic way. I enjoyed training hard and getting back. When you start to feel that condition coming and you start to lose that bit of weight and you are going up the climbs a little bit quicker, it's just a snowball effect. You thrive off of that. I just enjoy that side of bike racing: the riding and training.”
Thomas revealed that Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) had teased him about how big he was in November before the Tirreno-Adriatico photo shoot on Tuesday. He avoided the scales for a while.
“I was pretty big, but it's all good now,” Thomas said, at ease with joking about his weight.
“To be honest, I avoided the scales for a long time. I could just tell I was fat by looking in the mirror. It wasn't really until Valencia, maybe, when I started looking again. I'm mid-71kg now, which is okay. I’m where I want to be.”
He insisted there was no pressure from Team Sky to be on form, or from himself. The Welshman is firmly focused on being back to his best for the Tour de France in July, when he hopes to win for a rare second consecutive time.
“They understand the winter I had and the off season I had, too,” Thomas said of his team.
“There's no point in rushing back too soon and then sort of tailing off. It's just a nice steady build-up like always. It’s all good.
“I had a really good block in LA, then the first race in Valencia, a bit of a rest and then a good camp in Tenerife. Now I feel like I've gone up to the next level, which Strade Bianche showed. Now I have this race, then Tenerife again, and then Basque and Romandie. So I think progression-wise it's heading the right way and I'm where I want to be.”
Tirreno-Adriatico perhaps a bit too punchy
Thomas wears number 1 after teammate Michal Kwiatkowski won Tirreno-Adriatico last year. Thomas finished third overall after a chain problem led him to lose 40 seconds and the race leader’s blue jersey. He admitted he is not in the same form this year but is hoping things go his way after a string of misfortune in Italy in recent seasons, including a crash at the 2017 Giro d’Italia.
“I'd love to win and I'll give it a good go. Never say never, and you never know with bike racing,” Thomas said.
“My condition's certainly not as good as it has been at this time of year before, but, saying that, it's not like I'm going badly. I think with Wout as well in the team, we have two good cards to play.”
Like all the overall contenders invited to the pre-race press conference, Thomas knows Wednesday’s opening 21.5km team time trial will be important in the week-long battle for the overall classification at Tirreno-Adriatico.
In the absence of a real mountain top finish, any time lost in the team time trial will be a real handicap. The 10, six and four second time bonuses awarded on the steep hilltop finishes on stages 2, 4 and 5 will shape the fight for the leader’s blue jersey before the final 10km individual time trial decides who takes home the distinctive trident winner’s trophy.
“I think the TTT is wide open and five or six teams could win it,” Thomas said, talking up Team Sky’s chances against expected contenders CCC Team, Groupama-FDJ, Bahrain-Merida and Team Sunweb. "We’ve got a decent team, including Filippo Ganna, who is flying after winning the pursuit at the track world championships.
“The stage on Sunday should probably have as much impact or more than the long climb last year because it's so punchy. It'll be a hard day and a steep climb. If someone has strong legs they can take five, six, seven, or 10 seconds there, so it'll certainly still be hard.
"Maybe it’s all a bit punchy for me at the moment, but I was a lot better in Strade Bianche than I thought I'd be," Thomas said. "We also have Wout as well to be up there, and hopefully we can do a good TTT to start the week well and go from there.”