After winning gold on the track at the 2012 Olympic Games, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has set his sights on the road for 2016. Thomas believes that the Great Britain team is in the best position yet to bring home their first gold medal in the men’s road race.
“As a country, we’re the strongest we’ve ever been,” he told Cyclingnews. “I’m really looking forward to racing the Olympics. They’re a massive global event and I’m really looking forward to it.”
The road race and time trial courses for the Rio Olympics were revealed by the UCI at the beginning of December. The 256.4 kilometre road race course contains two circuits with two climbs a piece, including the 13 per cent average Gumari ascent. The route should favour the strong climbers with a fast kick something Thomas believes suits the British team.
“It should be good,” Thomas said. “I think Britain, with myself Pete [Kennaugh] – depending on if he rides the track or the road – [Ben Swift] Swifty, [Ian] Stannard, and [Luke] Rowe we’ve got a good core of riders for that sort of course.”
Britain will be looking to put the bad memories of their home Olympics behind him when they were unable to bring back the large break to deliver Mark Cavendish to victory in front of Buckingham Palace.
Thomas wasn’t part of the five-man team on the road, instead he was winning gold on the track in the team pursuit. The result was to be the Welshman’s last competitive appearance on the track to date. Teammate Bradley Wiggins is working towards a return to the boards at the Olympics, while Cavendish and Swift are also rumoured to be riding the track in 2016, but Thomas says his goals are firmly on the tarmac for now.
“At the moment I’m just focussing on the road and hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to get a place in the road race and the time trial. The track is definitely on the back burner for a while,” said Thomas. “I do miss it when I see the boys racing but the way it is these days you’ve got to commit at least half a season, if not a full season and spend a lot of time on the boards at Manchester. The road is where I want to go at the moment.”
He didn’t discount a return completely, however. “Maybe in a few years I don’t see why not. When I watch track racing, even the Revolution, I do miss it and it is where I started and I’m sure I’ll return at some point.”
Paris-Nice, Cobbles and Le Tour
Thomas will be beginning the new road season where he has done for the last three seasons, at the Tour Down Under, where he will team up with Richie Porte for the general classification. He will make a brief stopover in the Middle East for the Dubai Tour before returning to Europe for the Volta ao Algarve.
The next leg of Thomas’ season will be split into two parts, the first of which will begin in March with his big goals of Paris-Nice and the Cobbled Classics. He was on target for a podium finish at Paris-Nice in 2014 before he crashed on stage 7 and was forced to abandon. There were a few more crashes – not just for Thomas himself - during the cobbles but the 28-year-old claimed impressive top 10 finishes at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and a podium finish at E3 Harelbeke. Thomas says that he can take confidence from that and believes that Team Sky can be a big force on the pavé in 2015.
“It would obviously be nice to get on the podium again and to win one of them as well. I think as a team we can take a lot of confidence over the last few years,” he explained. “With Brad looking to come back to the cobbles again, I think that will add to the strength of the team. If everyone is fit and injury free then I think that we can have a strong team and definitely influence the race. I think that we have learned a lot since we started in 2010.”
Thomas will then be looking to utilise his classics talents to help his teammate Chris Froome regain his Tour de France title in July. “Once I’m done with the Classics I’ll be focussing on the Tour and trying to drop that extra few kilos and work more on the climbs. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my place in the team because it’s certainly a strong team.”