Geraint Thomas’ hopes and dreams of a top five placing in the Tour de France ended cruelly on stage 19 of the Tour de France to La Toussuire when he lost over 20 minutes and slipped to fifteenth but the Welshman was rightly proud of his own performance and that of the Team Sky squad. Any plans for Thomas to target the overall classification in a Grand Tour are still in their infancy but he has shown his potential and ability to target the cobbled Classics and then be strong in the Tour de France.
Thomas is expected to step into the role created by Richie Porte’s expected move to BMC and lead Team Sky in other stage races, be Froome’s last man on the key climbs of the Tour and could target the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a Espana as an apprenticeship for a future Tour de France leadership role.
Any formal decision about Grand Tour leadership in 2016 will be made after celebrating this year’s victory.
“It’s a tough ask. Maybe. We’ll sit down after this and decide,” he said after reaching Alpe d’Huez.
“This race has certainly given me a lot of confidence for the future. Even I was surprised to being fourth going into stage 19. It’s mental. I knew I was climbing well after the Tour de Suisse and in training but doing it in the biggest race in the world is incredible.”
Naturally head strong and multi talented
The management at Team Sky know all about Thomas’ potential and character because the Welshman developed via the Great Britain Academy programme overseen by Dave Brailsford and managed by Rod Ellingworth, who is now Team Sky’s Head of Performance Operations, and an experienced race coach and directeur sportif.
Brailsford has described Thomas’ Grand Tour future as the ‘logical next step’ in his career and the application of Team Sky’s training and preparation methodology.
Ellingworth told Cyclingnews that any decision on targeting the classification in a Grand Tour would have to come from Thomas.
“I think for Geraint, it’s all about what he wants to do,” he said. “We like a challenge too and so it’s going to be fascinating to see just how well he can do. But it’s totally his call. He’s got to follow his dreams and we can help him realise them.”
“He set his mind on doing well and has done the work to do it. Geraint is naturally head strong and so knows how to suffer. He showed what he can do in Paris-Nice in recent years and has nearly won it. He was second in the Tour de Suisse but people seem to have forgotten that.”
Ellingworth revealed Thomas’ toughness and ability with an anecdote from their time together in the Great Britain Under 23 team.
“We realised the other day that it’s ten years since Geraint first rode up the Glandon. He rode it in an Under 23 race when he was just 19,” Ellingworth told Cyclingnews, enjoying the memory.
“The team crashed the day before in the team time trial and Geraint took the skin off his hands. The morning after he came to the team meeting not dressed in his cycling kit. He thought his race was over but I said to him: “You don’t pedal with your bloody hands, get your kit on.” I made him start but he finished too. That showed his character.”
“He rode the Tour de France for the first time with Barloworld in 2007. I was speaking to him most nights then and he was suffering like a dog. So it’s great to see him progress so well. He’s still current Olympic team pursuit champion and so that shows his full range of talents. He’s phenomenal.”