Geraint Thomas admits that he was on a downward spiral at the end of the Critérium du Dauphiné and missing out on selection for the Tour de France but that a new strict regime and diet saw him drop weight and find focus at Tirreno-Adriatico.
The Welshman finished second overall in the Italian stage race and will target the Giro d'Italia later this month but on Friday he represents Great Britain in the time trial at the UCI Road World Championships, where he will be hoping to win his first rainbow jersey on the road.
Thomas' improvements at Tirreno-Adriatico were in stark contrast to his ride at the Dauphiné, where he struggled to compete for the GC or match up against Jumbo-Visma in the mountains as a super-domestique. Speaking to a small gathering of the media during an online press conference, the 34-year-old gave an honest assessment over his condition earlier in the year.
"I think I was a bit lighter," he said concerning his Tirreno performance. "After the Dauphiné I went on a strict sort of regime really. I worked with the nutrition, the team were telling me how much pasta, protein, and veg to have. I was just doing like long easy rides – six, seven-hour rides.
"That helped just shift a bit of the weight and that's made the biggest difference really. The power was decent in the Dauphiné, I was just running a little heavy early on. When you're not really going great as well, mentally you're just a bit not quite there.
"Come Tirreno, I went in there as a leader and was feeling better on the bike and suddenly rather than a downward spiral, you're just riding that crest of a wave. As days go by you get more confident and you grow as a team, that's the biggest thing."
With his focus turned from the Tour de France to the Giro the Welshman has the chance to challenge for the second Grand Tour victory of his career and make up for the disappointment of crashing out of the Giro in 2017.
He will head to Italy in a few days to compete over a course that looks ideal for his skillset, with three time trials spaced out throughout the race. The individual time trial at Worlds will provide Thomas with just his third time trial of the year but his longest to date and this important marker will be important as he looks to build on his momentum.
"Obviously it plays a big part. But at the same time, I would have wanted to do [the Worlds] anyway just because I really get a chance to race," he said. "I'm always on my knees by the end of the season after a typical year. But obviously, this is anything but. I'm feeling pretty good and I would have wanted to do the TT anyway but obviously having three TTs at the Giro gives extra importance to it.
"Going up into the Giro I am happy where I am. Tirreno was really good just for the confidence as well as just a good eight hard days of racing. I think just that extra time that I had to lose a bit of weight as well and to get the extra race days in. It helps a lot. And I am happy with where I am. I am really looking forward to getting into the Giro now and getting going."
Thomas is heading into Friday's challenge with little external pressure on his shoulders. His main focus is the Giro but his impressive form at Tirreno means that he arrives in Imola with an outside chance of a medal.
The field, however, is stacked with his two Ineos Grenadiers teammates Filippo Ganna and defending champion Rohan Dennis, among the favourites. There are also several rivals heading to Imola directly from the Tour de France, like Tom Dumoulin, Rémi Cavagna, Stefan Küng, and Wout van Aert.
"I think someone coming out of the Tour will win. After such a big hard block of racing at the Tour, maybe not necessarily one of the guys who was racing for GC but the guys who still had a hard Tour but have not emptied the tank. It's definitely going to be an exciting race to watch," Thomas said.
"The course is fine but I would have liked a more undulating course ideally. But from the last days of Tirreno I have had, I was in the mix there. I am just hoping to be there or thereabouts tomorrow. Obviously, I am going to give it everything I've got and try to get the best result possible.
"But yeah, we'll see. It's strange as well as it's the first TT I've done outside of a stage race… I've done nationals twice, maybe, and the Olympics once. It's different but it'll definitely help for the Giro as well."
The bottom line for Thomas is that he doesn't feel the need to prove anyone wrong after the disappointment of missing out on a Tour de France place on the Ineos team.
"To be honest I was over it pretty quickly. The initial disappointment was more that it was just the first real time I'd not hit my target for the year. I knew I wasn't in the shape to challenge for the win, that was the disappointing thing, but I could have an easy week, go back to Cardiff and see my son and switch off for a few days and then get back into it and build-up to the Giro.
"As soon as I was back out in Monaco and starting the whole Giro project I was motivated and good to go then. It gave me a bit of new impetus. It's nothing about proving anything to anyone, it was a decision that Dave [Brailsford – Ed.] and myself made together after the Dauphine. It actually gave me a new lease of life as well."
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