As one of the most thoroughbred all-rounders in the pro peloton, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has somewhat of a peculiar structure to his calendar.
At the start of 2015 he was in prime shape for the early-season stage races, achieving notable success in winning the Volta ao Algarve and finishing fifth at Paris-Nice. Then it was time to become a genuine Classics specialist, capable of mixing it with the hard men who gear their seasons around the grueling one-day races, and beating them too.
After that it was time to shed the bulk put on over the spring and get back into the swing of stage racing. As someone who is able to excel across the board, it can be a difficult transition to make mentally.
“At the start of the year I was going into Paris-Nice and Algarve climbing well and feeling good there, and part of you just wants to commit to stage racing. But then you go and do the Classics and carry that form through, get some results there, and it’s like ‘ah the Classics are awesome – I don’t want to give these up’,” Thomas told Cyclingnews.
“It’s pretty tough; it feels like I should try to settle on one thing but I just enjoy both of them to be honest. When you’re racing in the front, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a one-day in Belgium in the wind or in the heat in France up some mountain.”
As well as the psychological adjustments Thomas has to make, the physical transitions have been just as tough. The Welshman took a week off after Paris-Roubaix before a tentative reintroduction to stage racing at the Tour de Romandie – which he describes as a “shock to the system” – followed by training time in Tenerife and Monaco.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good, my efforts have been going quite well and things and I’ve just been trying to chip off the weight put on from the Classics. That’s the biggest challenge. Through the Classics you just end up putting on weight, no matter how much you watch it,” he said.
“After Paris-Nice I hadn’t really done any of those sort of long climbs really until Romandie but Tenerife certainly put that right. So yeah, I’m in decent shape and just looking forward to getting to [the Tour de] Suisse and racing hard.”
Tour de Suisse
As Thomas hits his optimum weight and fitness for the demands of stage racing, it’s time to test his racing legs once more ahead of playing a key role in the Tour de France in July. The Tour de Suisse starts on Saturday and offers nine varied stages. Thomas himself asked to do it over the Critérium du Dauphiné, where Froome and other members of Sky’s probable Tour line-up are preparing, in order to have some variety and an individual target.
He’s aiming for a strong overall showing but his hopes of an outright win have been tempered by the summit finish to the Rettenbach Glacier on stage 5, with steady ramps of 12 to 14 per cent.
“I kind of was [targeting the overall] until I saw stage 5,” Thomas told Cyclingnews. “That’s a full-on mountain climb and one for the pure climber, which I’m definitely not. People like Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) are quality climbers, he did what he did in the Tour last year, so it will be a good test for me to see where I am on such a big mountain like that.
“I’ll give it a good go and hopefully I can be in that top 10 come the end, but I think I’ll just ride aggressively and try and get what I can out of every day. I won’t be too conservative. The Sunday and Monday stage look a lot more raceable for me. Finishing on a time trial as well, it’s 38km so it’s a long one and time trialling is something I want to move forward in as well, so that works well on the overall plan as well.”
Tour de France
Despite Froome and co’s presence across the border in the French Alps, Thomas is confident he’ll have a crucial role to play as the Kenyan-born Brit looks to win the maillot jaune for a second time, not least in the important 28km team time trial on stage 9.
“I’m really looking forward to it," said Thomas. "I think it’s a really good first nine days, a proper racing route. There are not many bog standard sprint days, there’s always something – a short time trial to start, the Mur de Huy, cobbles, even the first stage could be really windy on the coast, the Mur de Bretagne, then the team time trial, so it’s going be a great race. But it’s going to be stressful for sure"
Thomas will be giving his all for Froome but as a pure racer, that first portion of the Tour must really whet the appetite and it may all be too much to resist.
“Going into the Tour my main priority is doing a good job for Froomey,” he insists. “It depends how the race is going. If there are a few guys around him and somebody’s like ‘ah go on have a go yourself’, then I’d love to do that. If an opportunity does arise then I’d love to try and take it.”