True Welsh grit
Geraint Thomas’s gutsy 2007 Grand Tour debut hinted at great things
These days the weeks before a Grand Tour are marked for Geraint Thomas as a top GC contender by rounds of interviews and glamorous publicity appearances. The days before his first Grand Tour in 2007 were marked with a game of darts in a pub in Croydon, with some sweaty Cycling Weekly journalists.
But that’s not to say the young Welshman wasn’t taking his debut Tour seriously; he was the only one of a four-man team of pros that included Charly Wegelius, Enrico Degano, Filippo Pozzato, who was sticking to orange juice — perhaps mindful of his neo-pro status. It must have worked because he ended up the highest British finisher on the Tour’s first road stage to Canterbury (42nd).
That day, as for most of the Tour, 21-year-old Thomas was tasked with working for Barloworld sprinter Robbie Hunter. Thomas had impressed Hunter that season. “There was once or twice he would go from 2km out and do such a job there were other teams changing three or four riders in the space of his one turn. Things like that show you the quality and the engine he had,” recalls Hunter.
Thomas, who Hunter describes as having “a few more kilos than he should have” would struggle in the mountains from the second week onwards, despite working mostly on his climbing in the build-up to the race.
Never was that more obvious than on stage eight when Thomas was dropped with 110km left in the stage but recovered to join the gruppetto at the bottom of the last climb. It was a day when there were several losses from the peloton as riders failed to make the time limit including Robbie Mcewen, who Thomas said he had considered sticking with.
The grit he showed impressed Hunter: “He rode all the way on his own to get to the finish. For most first-year pros that would be the end of their Tour but he caught the gruppetto at the bottom of the last climb and I was like, ‘What are you doing here?’”
Thomas’s determination was partly internal, but also he was in daily contact with Matt Parker and Shane Sutton — both then working at British Cycling — for support in getting through the race.
Hunter adds: “He was super relaxed. One of the great things about Geraint is that he knew his place, in the nicest way; he was super happy to do his job for the guys and happy to learn from the older pros.
“That showed a guy that wanted to go far — guys that come in and think that they know everything limit themselves.”
Thomas made it to Paris, where he was once again on lead-out duty, two kilos lighter than when he started and telling CW at the time that his legs weren’t “totally wasted”.
He added: “I’ve moved up to another level.” Little did he know there would be plenty more levels to come.
Thomas (second left): used 2007 Tour as a learning opportunity
Thomas kept focus all the way to Paris