Last week, Geraint Thomas was still talking optimistically about finding his best form for the Tour de France and so Team Ineos' sudden change in leadership roles for the Grand Tours and his non-selection for La Grande Boucle appears to have caught the Welshman by surprise.
Thomas has ridden the Tour 10 times, including every year at Team Sky/Ineos apart from 2012, when he focused on the team pursuit at the London Olympics. He had suffered in the mountains during the Critérium du Dauphiné but had appeared confident he could lose a final kilogram of weight ahead of the Tour.
Team Ineos opted for another plan, preferring to swap Thomas with Richard Carapaz 10 days before the Grand Départ in Nice. Chris Froome has also been omitted from the Tour selection.
"It's nice to finally have a firm plan in place and to know exactly what I'm doing and, yeah, try and get some sort of positive out of this year," said Thomas with a hint of despondency in a video released by Team Ineos.
Thomas or Team Ineos haven't explained why the Welshman has struggled in races, with Thomas only saying in an Instagram message: "It's been a funny old year racing wise and training wise but we've made the decision to target the Giro..."
Thomas last raced the Giro d'Italia in 2017, when he looked for a clear leadership opportunity to escape Chris Froome's shadow. He was on form at that corsa rosa but was forced to abandon the race after a stationary police motorbike sparked a high-speed crash on stage 9.
The Welshman had hinted about one day returning to the Giro but he didn't expect it to be in 2020. Now, instead of preparing for the Tour de France, he will likely take a short break and begin preparing for the Giro d'Italia, which starts in Palermo, Sicily on Saturday, October 3.
The route includes several hard mountain stages in the final week but also three time trials, which will be advantage for the Welshman. With Remco Evenepoel out of action following his Il Lombardia crash, Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) will be Thomas' biggest rivals for the maglia rosa.
"In 2017, I was in great shape, kind of like what I was in 2018 when I won the Tour. The Giro went badly with that crash, so it's always something I've wanted to go back to," Thomas said, putting on a brave face to his sudden change in goals.
"I enjoy the racing there, I love racing in Italy, the road, the fans and the food. It's just a race I've always enjoyed certainly looking forward to going back and that's the plan now."
Team Ineos manager Dave Brailsford suggested that the Giro offered Thomas a big platform to show what he can do. It also allowed him to appease race organiser RCS Sport while he pulled defending champion Richard Carapaz from the Giro in order to field him at the Tour to help Bernal.
"We're going to focus on Geraint and give him the opportunity," Brailsford said, selling Thomas' move to the Giro as well as he could.
"He's been second in the Tour, he's been first in the Tour the year before, this guy needs a big chance, he need a big platform; so we decided to give Geraint the opportunity to focus on going for the Giro.
"A Welshman's never won the Giro, it's a big race and if he can double that up, it'd be terrific. There's three time trials, the mountains suit him, it’s a pretty good Grand Tour for him."
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