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Geraint Thomas interview: Flanders, Roubaix, Tour de France.

Josh Cunningham
8 Apr 2016

Geraint Thomas tells Cyclist what happened at Flanders, the Team Sky plan for Roubaix, and what's to come for him later in the year.

Cyclist: What are you doing post-Flanders?

Geraint Thomas: I'm up on Mount Teide in Tenerife at the moment - I flew out on Monday, straight from Belgium to here. I'm five days into a training camp, but up here for two weeks in total. I'm mostly training for the summer really - for July, but I've also got Liege and Romandie coming up as well, so it helps to chip off a bit of weight for those, and do a bit of climbing - well, a lot of climbing - to be able to go and race hard there.

Cyc: How did Flanders go from your perspective?

GT: Yeah, good. I wasn't quite sure what to expect as I was a bit sick and not feeling great in the lead up to it, and it's a bit different racing Contador and Richie [Porte] up 15km climbs in Paris-Nice to racing Sagan and Cancellara over 1km bergs. It was just a shame about the move that Kwiatkowski was in - he went around the time I was hoping to go, so my hands were tied really, and I had to wait for the Kwaremont [to ride].

I felt good up there though. I was following Fabian, and it was obviously hard, but I was fairly confident I could stay there, but once we caught a few people I lost his wheel and lost a bit of momentum, and that was it - once he gets ten or fifteen metres he's gone. So that was a bit frustrating, and then I was in the chase group riding for fourth, and with everyone thinking about that [4th place] nobody really rode full gas.

Cyc: What was the Team Sky tactical plan?

GT: Going into the race Kwiatkowski was the leader of the team, with myself, Luke [Rowe] and [Ian] Stannard the guys to follow moves with 40-odd km to go. He [Kwiatkowski] said on the radio he didn't feel too good, so he went with that move - or made that move - which meant we all had to sit back and wait. But I would ideally have liked to have gone somewhere around then. And you never know...

It could have gone a bit better, for sure, but that's the way one day racing is. It's all down to those split second decisions, how the team races. You only get that one shot, whereas at a stage race you have multiple days to correct mistakes. But that's what makes the Classics so special.

Cyc: Will they take a similar approach at Roubaix?

GT: I think Rowe and Stannard will be the leaders, and I think they'll be trying to go fairly early - maybe 40km out - because they won't want to risk trying to follow Fabian and Sagan when they go. It's better to be on the front foot and already have a guy up the road - then the race comes to them, or it doesn't even catch up with them at all

Cyc: Who's going to win on Sunday?

GT: It's a tough one. I think Fabian's team is more suited for Roubaix than it is Flanders, so I think he'll get more support. He's going super well, but Sagan was on another level in Flanders, even compared to previous weekends, so it's hard to see past those two. But there's a lot that can happen.

If there is an early move that goes, with Luke, Stannard, Vanmarcke, a QuickStep rider - someone on that next level, then it's going to be hard to bring that back.

Cyc: Why did you choose not to ride Roubaix? 

GT: This year has been more about trying to move on with the stage racing, so something had to give. I still did Flanders because...just because it's my favourite race and I didn't want to miss it. But you can't do everything.

Cyc: How will Cavendish get on?

GT: It's tough, with all the track racing that he's done recently. Endurance is the main thing that you lack doing track, and that's one of the key things you need in Roubaix, so it's going to be tough for him. But he just loves racing his bike, and he understands all the history of Roubaix, so I'm sure he'll get stuck in.

Cyc: There's increased scrutiny on safety at the moment for a number of reasons. What's the rider's viewpoint on a race like Roubaix - where it's fundamentally more dangerous. At what point should sectors be removed, or the course changed?

GT: The thing with Roubaix is that it's so unique, and it has that prestige because it's so different - and dangerous. Obviously if there's a sector that's going to be particularly bad, and there's just going to be crashes everywhere, then it should be taken out. But I think part of Roubaix is that whole aspect of having a bit of luck on your side - not puncturing, not crashing - and if there are some wet or muddy sectors then I still feel they should be in there. But there's a limit to how crazy it can be.

Cyc: Were you expecting to win Paris Nice?

GT: I didn't really know what to expect to be honest. Obviously you go into any race trying to win, but I think a podium I would have been happy with. With the likes of Contador and Richie being there it was hard to know how it would go. But to be able to respond to all the attacks, get second on that stage [stage six], and then take the jersey, was great for the confidence.

Cyc: Do you think your position within the team has changed because of that win, or was it just the next step in a progression that had already been established?

GT: Yeah I think it was just confirmation of me moving onto that next step really. It's a race I've been close to [winning] in the past, so it was nice to go back and finally win it. They way we won it too, with my legs going when Contador went away with Richie on that last day, and then managing to salvage it on the descent. The way it all panned out made for an immense feeling. The whole team committed themselves to me all week, and I've been in that situation before - riding for somebody else - so it was really nice to finish the job off.

Cyc: What's your position in the team going to be for the Tour?

GT: I think I'll just be looking out for myself a bit more. Last year I was just doing everything that needed to be done for Froomey, from day one until the end, so I think this year I'll just protect myself more, not go too deep every day, and not do more than I have to. That way come the last week I'll be able to keep riding and hopefully be as strong.

Cyc: Who will be Froome's main rivals?

GT: The usual guys. I think Quintana obviously. He's always there and he's always strong in the last week, and it's a hard last four days so he'll be up there for sure. Contador as well - it's maybe his last season and he's going to want to go out on a high. Then Aru - he's not been riding too strongly yet [this year] but he's going to come into form. Yeah, those are the main three.

Cyc: With Wiggins migrating back to the track in his twilight years, and Cav also showing more interest, it seems the velodrome is becoming the pro cycling retirement home. Do you see yourself going back at any stage?

GT: Tough one really. I do love the track, but it's the amount of time and effort that you need to put in that's the hard part - you have to commit fully. You can't ride the track and still perform at your highest level on the road, and taking the road as far as I can is all I'm thinking about at the moment.

Geriant Thomas Interview Monaco

Cyc: But will you be on the road in Rio at the Olympics?

GT: Yeah, that's the plan. I'd like to try and get a spot for the road race and the time trial. We've only got one spot on the time trial, so that's obviously going to be tough, but I'm going to try and be there. Hopefully I'll be able to recover from the Tour, bring that good form with me, and put on a good performance.

Cyc: And finally: You're a man who seems to take an interest in a few other sports, so how do you feel about England and Wales being in the same group at Euro 2016?

GT: Good! I think it's always good to have that England-Wales rivalry, and match day will be a good day. I think England will be favourites, but hopefully Wales can pull something out the bag. If they get Bale and Ramsey doing their thing then you never know. 

Geraint Thomas is the ambassador for bicycle insurer Protect Your Bubble. Their cycle insurance covers road bikes, hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, and more, against theft, accidental damage and vandalism. Discounts for insuring multiple bikes are available.

Photographs: Duncan Elliot (duncanelliot.net)