True Welsh grit

Geraint Thomas’s gutsy 2007 Grand Tour de­but hinted at great things

Cycling Weekly - - THOMAS -

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

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