British Giro d'Italia contender Geraint Thomas says "it's just a bike race, we can't put too much stress on it"
The Welshman walked into the race headquarters wearing a white Sky shirt for a pre-race press conference in Alghero, in the northwest corner of Sardinia.
Thomas starts as a leader in a Grand Tour team for the first time after winning week-long stage races and supporting Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome at the Tour de France. Mikel Landa joins Thomas as co-leader.
“I don’t think it’ll be a step backwards [if I don’t do well], it’ll be a good challenge whatever happens,” Thomas said. “With [Michele] Scarponi and Chad [Young], and I lost my aunty last week… It’s just a bike race, we can’t put too much stress on it, there are a lot of bigger things in life.
“If I’m on the podium, fantastic, great, I get paid more money! If I don’t, I’ll maybe just keep focusing on week-long races, but it’s not the end of the world.”
The 30-year-old is on a good path after a steady rise this spring that culminated with a win in the Tour of the Alps last month ahead of Thibaut Pinot.
The switch to stage racing came in earnest for the 2016 season. Thomas, who began life racing on the track, turned his back on the classics and spent more time at altitude to prepare for the challenge.
“No, not really,” he responded when asked if he felt time was running out for him to win Grand Tours.
“I have two Olympic gold medals at home, I had a great career until now and I’ve enjoyed it. Age is a number. Track years are not as hard as road years and so that helps my longevity. I’m happy to be here. Whatever happens in the future is the future.”
Thomas sat between Spaniard Mikel Landa and Italian Sports Director Dario Cioni while at the press conference. It is the first time that Sky is beginning the Giro with two captains. In the past, it tried to win with Rigoberto Urán, Bradley Wiggins, Richie Porte and last year, Mikel Landa.
“They are both the captains, on the same level, and we are lucky to have two,” Cioni said.
He was asked why Sky had two captains, if the team did not fully trust in Thomas’s abilities over three weeks or if Landa gave no guarantee after he abandoned mid-race in 2016.
“‘G’ merited it. Mikel was already on the podium in third [in 2015], we had this chance and we are lucky to be able to race like this.”
In the Tour of the Alps, the two seemed to happily work for each other to win the overall. Having Landa as an option, Thomas essentially becomes more dangerous in one of his “biggest career challenges” because his rivals do not know who to watch in the stage finales.
“It’s obviously one of the biggest challenges of my career and we’re only at the start, we’ve got a massive three weeks ahead,” said Thomas. “It’s been pretty sweet so far, so let’s hope it can continue. We’ve got a strong team looking forward to racing; it feels like we’ve been talking about it forever.”
The 2017 Giro d’Italia starts in Sardinia on Friday, May 5, and concludes three weeks later in Milan on Sunday, May 28.