Tour de PEZ: Meet Geraint Thomas
It’s only three years since Geraint Thomas (Barloworld and Wales) won the world junior track scratch race championships, now at 21, he’s swapped
smooth boards for the gnarly tar of the Pyrenees. Geraint, from Cardiff, capital of Wales is the youngest rider in the race at just 21, we caught-up with him after stage 17, Pau to Castelsarrasin with the Alps and Pyrenees behind him.
Pez: The hard ones first, how do we pronounce your name?
Geraint: It’s with a hard ‘G’ – ‘Ger-ant.’
Pez: Tell us about how you got into the sport.
Geraint: I joined a local track cycling club when I was twelve, just for fun, I did other sports, but the bike was good because we used to travel
around Britain to track meetings, it was all a good laugh. From there I progressed to the British junior track squad and won the worlds scratch in 2004. I went on to the British World Class Performance Plan and was in the squad which took silver in the world team pursuit championships in 2006, and this year of course, we won it.
Pez: You’ve been a stagier (apprentice pro) with teams twice before, haven’t you?
Geraint: I was with Wiesenhof in 2005, but there was no suggestion of riding with the team the next year, it was just to gain experience of pro racing and of living on my own. Then I was a stagier with Saunier Duval last year, they put me into this race, I think it was the Tour of the Basque country (it was probably the Vuelta a Burgos, EH) – Mayo won it, so it wasn’t flat! I had come from the track, I hadn’t ridden the road for six or seven weeks and I was a little over-weight, so I didn’t do anything with Saunier.
Pez: What’s it like changing between road and track?
Geraint: Going from the road to the track isn’t so bad, you just have to find the leg speed, but going from the track to the road is tough.
Pez: How did the Barloworld connection come, and what is the team like?
Geraint: It was Rod Ellingworth from British Cycling who set the deal up. The team is great, it’s very cosmopolitan, the team language is Italian and I’m probably the worst at speaking it. But I room with Robbie Hunter (winner of stage 11 and the first South African ever to win a Tour stage) and he’s slowly teaching me.
Pez: Morale must be good, two stage wins and the king of the mountains tied-up, Soler can’t be caught now, can he?
Geraint: No, he’s won it, he’s a nice guy actually, his main language is Spanish, but he speaks Italian too, he’s only 24, but people always say he
looks about 40. I do as much work as I can for him on the run-in to the climbs, keep him out of the wind, get him bottles; but there’s not much any of us can do to help him once we’re on the big climbs. Robbie has been going really well this year too, so the stage win was great.
Pez: What were your goals for 2007?
Geraint: The worlds team pursuit, and we achieved that and to learn and get stuck-in as a pro. I also fancied a serious crack at the British road race title, but it was cancelled due to flooding, they’ve set another date for it, but it’s the weekend after the Tour finishes, so I don’t think I’ll ride, I’ll be too tired after this.
Pez: Tell us about the Tour.
Geraint: It’s been really hard, but I’ve loved it, I didn’t expect to get
this far and it’s great to be here, learning. Stage eight was a real stinker, I got dropped really early and rode a hundred kilometres in my own, and somehow I got back onto the gruppetto for the last col. I thought it was all over, but I never thought about giving-up, I don’t know how I kept going, but I did.
Pez: What about next year?
Geraint: The big goal is the team pursuit at the Olympics; it’s already agreed with the team that I can have the time to prepare – maybe four to six weeks. Claudio (his team manager, Claudio Corti runner-up to Claude Criquielion in the 1984 world pro road race in Barcelona) has big plans for the team for next year, so we’ll see how it goes.
From junior world champion to Tour rider, in three years; where will Geraint
Thomas be in another few?