Geraint Thomas plans to revert to a more traditional build-up to the spring classics in 2014 after Team Sky’s decision to send its one-day unit on an extended training camp in early March did not yield the expected dividends this season.
On the instruction of Sky’s head of performance, Tim Kerrison, Thomas and his classics teammates took the unusual – though not unprecedented – step of attending a two-week camp in Tenerife instead of lining up at Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico.
Although Thomas says that he was pleased with his condition coming out of the training camp, neither he nor his Sky teammates went on to land significant results at Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and he envisages a more race-heavy classics preparation next season.
“Physically, I was in great shape, but maybe it felt for a while as if every race we did was like the start of the year, because there were such big gaps between them all. That may have affected us a bit. Next year, I think I’ll definitely ride Paris-Nice,” Thomas told Cyclingnews.
“At the end of the day, we like racing our bikes really and any big race you miss, it’s always a shame. Hopefully I can go there and ride well for whoever our leader is there.”
If Thomas fell shy of his expectations last spring, it was not without some mitigation. A 4th-place finisher at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke, the Welshman was left frustrated by crashes in the finale of both Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders, and then took another tumble at Paris-Roubaix for good measure.
“From my point of view, I just had some bad luck but it was disappointing,” Thomas said. “I wanted to get a decent result in one of them. I think we learned a lot as well. Tactically we weren’t the best at Roubaix, so we know where we can improve there for next season for sure.
“For myself and [Ian] Stannard, it was the first time we really targeted those races as riders in with a chance of getting a result, so it’s a learning experience for us all really. I think we can improve on that.”
No sooner had Thomas ended his season than he had written a lengthy email to Kerrison and Rod Ellingworth, the beginning of his planning for the 2014 campaign. Once again, Thomas envisages starting his season at the Tour Down Under, but the key to his spring will be Paris-Nice. “Race hard there and that puts the finishing touches to everything,” he said. “You go into the classics then and you don’t have to think about it too much.”
During the season, of course, Thomas had precious little time to dwell on his classics disappointment. Once the cobbled classics were out of the way, he was drafted into Sky’s stage racing line-up and began to build towards the Tour de France, where in spite of riding with a fractured pelvis, he helped Chris Froome to final overall victory.
“Maybe stepping into that Tour group for the first time, you are chasing it a bit because you don’t do as much climbing as those guys have been doing, but it’s only the finishing touches that you need to put on,” Thomas said of the abrupt change in emphasis.
Thomas’ versatility is such that he is delegated to cover every imaginable role – he spent much of 2012 seconded to Great Britain’s team pursuit effort for the Olympics, for instance – but is the Welshman spreading his talents too thinly?
“I’ve grown up loving the classics and the Tour is the Tour, so it’s great to do both,” Thomas said. “In a year or so, I might have to decide what route I need to go down – whether it’s the classics, or the weeklong stage races and then trying to see where I could go in a grand tour.
“Maybe that’s one of the decisions I’m going to have to make in the next couple of years but for now, I’m just loving getting stuck in and improving generally as a rider.”