Geraint Thomas rounded off his Classics season with another top 10 finish at a monument and was Sky's best performer - yet again this sprint - at Paris-Roubaix, but the Welshamn was left thinking what could have been.
"It's nice to get a top 10 again. I think that the way I rode it wasn't the easy way. I was on the front a lot of the time. It's satisfying at the end of the day, but at the same time we wanted to get a podium," Thomas told reporters as he gathered his energy at the centre of the Roubaix velodrome.
Sky had numbers nearing the finale, but weren't able to convert that into the desired result. Thomas had been out front with a strong set of riders that included four-time winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). They were joined by a group of chasers on the Carrefour de l'Arbe and entered the velodrome in with two notorious fast men in John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Race favourites Fabian Cancellara (Trek Facitory), Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) and Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) were also in their company. "Against those sorts of guys, when I'm fresh it's hard enough, but when I'm on my knees it's nearly impossible. I hit them on the back straight and thought sod it, let's see what happens. I think that we can be content, but there is a lot more to come," said Thomas.
"Where we messed up was not going with Terpstra and then as soon as that happened, we were on the back foot. Obviously QuickStep were just going to sit there and Fabian and Sagan didn't want to ride because they wanted to save themselves for the finish and that's where we lost the podium."
Unlike he had at Flanders, Thomas didn't go into the race as the team's leader. That was Edvald Boasson Hagen, but the Norwegian didn't have the best of days with a mechanical and a crash that sent him flying into a field. Thomas has been the team's best performer of late and, along with Bradley Wiggins, managed to get Sky into the front group. It was a busy day for Thomas as he kept his teammates near the front of the bunch.
"I was there to help the boys and rode into the penultimate one before the Arenberg and did a big turn on the Arenberg. Brad punctured and I went back for him. Eddy had a puncture and I went back for him. Then I got back to the front and just felt like it was the moment to go and I got into that move," he said. "The guy in front of me let the wheel go and I couldn't close the gap. I was on my knees for the last 10 kilometres. I spoke to Brad and he said he felt good. When Terpstra went, I thought that I would commit and try to keep the gap as minimal as possible but I didn't really have the legs to do it."
The result at Roubaix is one of the best finishes at the race for the Sky team, with Thomas coming in behind the sprint in seventh place and Wiggins also making it into the top 10. Sky previously finished on the podium with Juan Antonio Flecha in their debut season back in 2010, but has lacked a real contender since he left two years ago. Thomas is continually looking like he can take up that mantle and he feels like he's finally finding his feet at the race.
"It's a lot to do with experience. It's only the third time that I've ridden Roubaix. We're riding it as a team. Bernie's done it 12 times but the rest of us are all sort of new to it. Riding together here and knowing the course, this is the first year that I've known the sectors and the crucial parts whereas before I was just trying to stay at the front but I had no idea what was going on," he explained. "It makes a big difference. It's the same thing with Flanders; if you're not in a good position then you know where you can move up again. It all adds up."
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