Less than a fortnight after crashing out of the Tour de France with a broken collarbone Geraint Thomas is already back in training as he refocuses on the final part of his season. The Welshman, who crashed out of the Tour but led the race for several days after wining the opening time trial, has described 2017 as both his best and worst season. As he recovers from his Tour crash, he will now target the Tour of Britain and the World Championships before hanging up his wheels for the year.
Now safely back home in Monaco after surgery on his collarbone, and some time off in Wales, Thomas spoke to Cyclingnews about his Tour de France. It was a race of highs and lows for the 31-year-old. On the eve of the race he announced that he had signed a contract extension with Team Sky and he duly won the opening time trial to put himself into the yellow jersey for the first time in his career. Despite some early crashes he led the race until the first mountain finish, before eventually crashing out on stage 9.
"That's the first time I've ever done my collarbone, so I'm officially a proper cyclist now. Or so I'm told. I'm taking ten days off the bike after my surgery but I'm doing a bit of work on the turbo for now," he told Cyclingnews.
With his surgery complete and his days spent on the sofa watching the rest of the Tour de France unfold, Thomas has had plenty of time to digest and process the last few weeks and months of his career. In April he looked on course for a strong Giro d'Italia – his first chance at leading Team Sky in a Grand Tour – but he crashed out before the race hit the most difficult mountains.
He came back for the Tour with his injuries healed and kicked off the race by beating the best time triallist in the world to pull on yellow.
"It's hard to think about the high points because it's the low points that were most recent and they're the ones that play on your mind," he admitted. "I couldn't watch the Giro when I crashed out but I've watched the Tour and supported the boys. I guess that this has been my best season and my worst season in the same year. Once the Tour is over it will be easier to look back at it with more fondness because at that moment I obviously still want to be there."
Crashes down to bad luck
Thomas' crashes both in the Giro and the Tour de France highlighted how vulnerable riders can be but also how quickly their fortunes can turn. Until the crash in the Giro – when a number of riders ploughed into the back of a poorly parked police motorbike – Thomas had stayed upright all year. That fall, however, began a chain of crashes that carried on until his Tour retirement. Such a run of bad luck might lead some riders to question themselves, but not Thomas. He admits he made mistakes but that luck played the biggest part in his falls.
"I had the one on the wet roads, the one with Peter Sagan, the one when I went over the hay bale and then the one I crashed out from. The first two I couldn't really have done anything about. The hay bale one, I just went into that corner too fast, and that was my fault. I hadn't actually crashed all year until my fall at the Giro with the motorbike. When I have crashed this year, I've done it properly.
"I know that with the big crashes there's nothing that I could have done though. The big Giro one was on TV and it was the same with the last one at the Tour. Rafal Majka came down in front of me and there was literally nowhere to go. It's just one of those things. Even with the first Tour crash in the rain, we were in the first 10 or 15 guys and still the crash happened there. Crashes happen and that's bike racing. I certainly don't question it. I know that some will but that's life."
With half a Tour and half a Giro in his legs many wondered if Thomas would head to the Vuelta in August for another crack at a Grand Tour. Chris Froome is targeting the GC and Thomas' climbing skills would certainly be appreciated by the team as they look to claim their first win in the race.
However, Thomas will skip Spain and instead focus on the Tour of Britain – which finishes in Cardiff this year – and the World Championships. The decision to skip the Vuelta comes down to several factors, not least the demands on Thomas to make his optimum racing weight for the third time in one season.
"Physically I might be able to get into the shape but mentally, and weight wise, it's not really going to work," he said.
"I've been on it since November for the Giro, and then had to bounce back for the Tour as quickly as I could. I certainly did that but then the disappointment from that, and the extra time off needed for my collarbone, I just don't think I could bring it all together for another Grand Tour."
"Bringing it down to 69 kilos, that's just too hard for me to sustain. I can do it for one big hit like the Giro and I was even there for the Tour but to keep going for the Vuelta, I won't be able to mentally deal with that.
"The weight is the hardest part for me. I can do the training and the efforts. That's the easy bit. I just need to get out on my bike and I love doing that. It's the 24-7 of eating well and all the time away. It's a big intense period of your life and you're basically living like a monk."
Thomas has not raced the Tour of Britain since 2011, but it used to be a staple part of his race programme with the Welshman racing every edition from 2005 until his last participation. Although he will not be in his Grand Tour condition, he still expects to represent Team Sky and be in contention.
"I think for me it's the Tour of Britain and the team time trial Worlds, and possibly the road race. That's where my focus will be. We'll see how the form is and I've obviously still got to be selected.
"I've not done the Tour of Britain for so long and it finishes in Cardiff as well. That will give me a good eight days of racing and it will get me on my bike again and motivated. I won't be going there to smash it but I'll be good enough to race and be in the thick end of it. I'll enjoy it and won't be there to just shuffle around in the middle of the pack."
Once he hangs up his wheels for the winter Thomas will have even more time to look back on memorable season. His long-term ambitions are to return to a Grand Tour - most likely the Giro - and give GC one more crack. As for motivation, he need only look inside his wardrobe to see what he's capable of doing.
"The thing about this year is that it gave me the confidence. I know I didn't really show it but I can get into that shape and be in the races. That gives me confidence so that if I can commit to that again then I have every chance of doing something next year.
"I had four days in yellow. I sometimes forget that as I watch the race and I just think 'I just want to be there for the boys' but when I open the wardrobe I have four yellow jerseys and that's pretty special."