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Geraint Thomas interview

Mark Bailey
4 Jun 2015

Double Olympic track champ Geraint Thomas tells us about swapping Wales for Monaco and the importance of pizza.

Team Sky cyclist Geraint Thomas is no stranger to suffering. The 29-year-old Welshman powered to two Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 in the notoriously gritty team pursuit event– a race in which synchronised four-man teams compete over a 4km track circuit at an intensity so brutal, their brains become starved of oxygen and black dots drift before their eyes.

Thomas has also battled to courageous personal victories on the road in the five-stage Tour of Bavaria in 2011 and 2014, the Commonwealth Games road race in rain-soaked Glasgow in 2014, and the E3 Harelbeke one-day race over the punchy climbs and bone-jarring cobbles of Flanders earlier this year.

Latest Geraint Thomas news

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Most famously, as a loyal servant at Team Sky, he endured a torturous physical ordeal to help fellow Brit Chris Froome win the 2013 Tour de France, heroically riding over 3,000km with a fractured pelvis after crashing on the first stage.

The pain was so intense, he had to be lifted on and off his bike by Team Sky staff.

Yet ask Thomas to recall one of his most traumatic memories in cycling and he digs up the boozy evening of 25 May 2005 when, as a member of the British Cycling academy – a kind of Hogwarts for gifted cyclists – he decided to break free from the routine of training to celebrate his 19th birthday.

At the time, he was living in Manchester with other fresh-faced cycling hopefuls including sprint king to-be Mark Cavendish and his future Olympic team pursuit companion Ed Clancy.

Geriant Thomas Interview Monaco Fixie Red 02 -Duncan  Elliott

‘We went out to watch Liverpool play in the Champions League final [against AC Milan] but because it went to penalties, it ended up being a later and more drunken night than we anticipated,’ confesses Thomas.

‘Rod Ellingworth [academy manager at the time and current head of performance operations at Team Sky] found out and I got called in for a big meeting with Dave Brailsford [then head of British Cycling and now team principal at Team Sky] and Shane Sutton [Great Britain track coach]. I got torn to shreds.

They gave me the worst possible punishment by banning me from the Five Valleys race in South Wales, on my home turf. I was absolutely gutted. It really hurt.’ Worse was to come

‘Not only were we not allowed to race, but we were sent off training with Bradley Wiggins and Steve Cummings instead,’ recalls Thomas, still distraught at the memory of being beasted by two senior pros. ‘That was our punishment: six hours in the Peaks with those two.’

Earning a crust

It says a lot about the fiery patriotism and boyish enthusiasm of Geraint Thomas that such a memory still needles him.

As a proud Welshman and an attacking cyclist always eager to, as he puts it, ‘smash it’ during races, the Cardiff-born star hated missing out on the chance of a dust-up in the local hills and valleys on which he had honed his craft.

But punishments were an important part of the British Cycling development system, injecting the discipline and focus that would turn talented individuals into accomplished professionals.

It was especially important in a house full of lads whose antics included drawing oversized horse appendages on the window, creeping out for sly beers, and racing each other up fire escapes.

‘The academy set me up for being a professional,’ says Thomas, who is known simply as ‘G’ to his fellow riders. ‘You learn not just about racing but also how to look after yourself.’

A university experience for cyclists, then? ‘More regimented,’ chuckles Thomas. He describes five-hour bike rides, training ‘homework’ and healthy salads.

‘I think uni students just go out on the lash and then put something in the microwave. We couldn’t do that.

'And I’m pretty sure they don’t have Rod Ellingworth sitting on the kerb outside their house making sure they’re in bed by 10pm.’

Thomas has come a long way since his roguish teenage years. A key member of Team Sky’s nine-man Tour de France squad, he now lives in glamorous Monaco, close to his team-mates Chris Froome and Richie Porte.

‘It’s a great place to live and the roads are really good for training. The team has set things up for us with a permanent ‘swanny’ [soigneur] for massages, spares for your bike and nutrition products. We are well-supported.’

Thomas is, in many ways, the antithesis of the sterile, monkish culture of modern professional cycling. He has always combined a ferocious work ethic and an intense commitment to the cause with a refreshingly easy-going demeanour.

He normally sticks to the rules, munching on salmon and rice while his partner, Sara, tucks into a pizza. But he admits that he enjoys the odd curry, a few beers or a pile of Welsh cakes.

He still loves to go on the odd blowout with friends, too.

‘I break the season up into blocks, so I was on the regime until Paris-Nice and the Classics, then I took a little break and enjoyed a steak, a pizza and a few drinks.

A'fter that I knuckled down for the Tour. If I had to live like a monk 24/7 I would just crack.'

Latest Geraint Thomas news

Tour de France Stage 12: Thomas wins again on Alpe d'Huez  
Tour de France is Geraint Thomas’s to lose, according to Bradley Wiggins  
Tour de France 2018: Geraint Thomas secures historic first Tour victory as Dumoulin wins Stage 20 time-trial  
Tour de France 2018: Geraint Thomas confirmed as winner while Kristoff wins final stage

Read more about Geraint Thomas

Geriant Thomas Interview Monaco Coffee -Duncan  Elliott

 Thomas’s earliest memories of cycling are from his rides with the Maindy Flyers cycling club in South Wales. ‘I remember getting nervous about doing a two-lap dash, even though there were only five of us,’ he says.

‘My first race bike was a blue Giant but my very first bike was a Wolf mountain bike.It had buttons you could press that made noises.’ As a young rider he would compete with Team Sky companions Luke Rowe and Ben Swift.

‘We’d travel away to races at weekends, going off in a minibus with a boom box. Sometimes we’d camp or stay in hostels. Good friends and a good laugh. I loved it.’