A battered and bruised Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) crossed the line in eighth place at the Tour of Flanders to gain his career-best finish in the race. He should have been delighted with the result, but the usually smiley Thomas looked sullen as he made his way to the team bus for a well deserved rest. The day was tinged with frustration after an early crash hampered him for the rest of the race and left him wondering what he could have done.
"I was having a drink, everyone slammed on and I hit a central reservation and landed on my face about 50km in. It proper shook me up. It's really frustrating, because I pulled something in my back and I just felt terrible all day. I managed to hang on in there and went away in that group in the end," he told Cyclingnews moments after crossing the line. Through his obvious disappointment, Thomas was still able to see the silver lining in it all.
"Considering how I felt, I can be happy with that. It was just a stupid crash."
The day had started with so much potential for Thomas. His recent performances at E3 Harelbeke – where he made the podium – and Gent-Wevelgem made him a real contender for the podium. In spite of the crash, Thomas was able to hang with the main group for most of the race but was eventually distanced on the Taaienberg with around 36 kilometres remaining.
It’s likely that the words "I give up" don’t exist in Thomas’ vocabulary. After seeing the big favourites ride off up the road he kept a tight hold on the group that he was in and managed to regain contact, before finding the energy to have his own little attack. However, he believes that he could have finished higher up, if he hadn’t made a tactical error near the finish. “I learned a lot today. When Terpstra went on the Paterberg I thought that I would just stay in the group, but I should have just gone with him," said Thomas. "You’ve just got to keep going in these races."
The Flanders fall is the third big crash that Thomas has suffered in recent weeks, in what has been a tough time for the Welshman. At the beginning of March he was sitting in second place at Paris-Nice and looked set for a very good result at the race before a high-speed fall forced him out of the race. He rested up and made it back for Milan-San Remo, but the cold proved too much for him and he had to abandon.
Thomas then went on to take a tumble in the final 10 kilometres at Gent-Wevelgem, before connecting with the ground once again today, leading the Welshman to wonder what he’s doing wrong. "I don’t know what I’ve done to piss somebody upstairs off, but I’ve just not had any luck," he laughed. "It was nobody’s fault, mine if anything. It’s just frustrating. I had decent legs and it would have been nice to have a clean run and see how I do. That’s the way it is."
Despite the many meetings with the tarmac, Thomas has had a relatively good Classics campaign. He can be pleased with his performances, even if the end result was not quite what he had hoped for. He now moves his focus to Paris-Roubaix where he will take a step back from his leadership role. "“I’m just here to help the team in Roubaix. I’m happy to do everything for Eddy, It would have been Stannard, but he’s obviously had some bad luck. I’m happy to just ride for the team full gas and do what I’m told.”