Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) completed the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana looking forward to the next phase of his season, having got through a race he described as "a good kick up the arse to go on to the next level of training".
On the toughest stage – stage 4 – with more than 3,300 metres of vertical climbing and finishing on the ascent to Santa Lucia hermitage, Thomas eased up when he hit the foot of the final climb. He then finished stage 5 safely, after doing a long turn on the front with five kilometres to go prior to a fast, small-bunch sprint stage won by Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma).
Although held up by a big crash in the final kilometre, which saw his teammate Chris Lawless slightly injured, Thomas was unaffected, easing across the line a few minutes after the bunch-sprint finish. With no time gaps due to the the crash having been in the last three kilometres, the Welshman finished 44th overall.
"Yesterday [stage 4] was… I was kind of just getting around. Really, there was nothing much for me to do for the boys, either, so it was a case of, 'get to the final climb and see how you are.' I was pretty hungry, actually. I'm a little bit heavy, so I'm watching what I eat a little a bit," Thomas told Cyclingnews before the final stage.
"But it's been a really good week, with hard racing, so definitely just what I needed, and a really good kickstart to the year.
“It gives you that kick up the arse to go up to the next level for training, but more for the diet and rest," he continued. "I've trained well in the last six weeks but I've just been busy, since the Tour, really, and I haven't rested. Now it's turned to being 100 per cent about training and racing."
Thomas said that he's not worried about his condition at this point in the season, although compared with other Februarys, when he's been winning or placing on the podium at the Volta ao Algarve, for example, he's not in such good shape. However, he did say that as a Tour winner, his performance, even in an early race like Valenciana, immediately comes under much closer scrutiny from the fans and media than it used to before he won cycling's biggest professional race.
"It's just different – the fact everyone notices me a lot more now. Before I'd be go about it like this, do the Tour Down Under – go through the motions there – and use the races to get a bit of fitness, same as here, and nobody cared.
"Whereas now, now that I've won the Tour, a lot more people talk about it."
Thomas will next head to Tenerife for two weeks of altitude training before returning to racing – possibly at Strade Bianche or Tirreno-Adriatico. Further down the road, the Vuelta al País Vasco, the Ardennes Classics and the Tour of Romandie are all on a probable schedule.
Yet despite the fact Thomas is more closely observed, he is, he said, where he wants to be – even if it's not in his nature to avoid the thick of the race action.
"It's all good," he said. "It's still super early. I knew where I was, and what to expect. You want to be up there, in the front, racing. I'd certainly rather be up there in June or July than now. But still in every race you're in, you want to do well."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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