Number 3: Geraint Thomas
Last year’s position: 14
On the morning of the Tour de France stage to Station des Rousses, Geraint Thomas sat second overall, 20 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara, 19 seconds ahead of Cadel Evans. All the talk was of who would be wearing the yellow jersey that evening.
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Jonathan Vaughters, the Garmin manager, used Twitter to back the Welsh rider. Later in the race, he asked how long Thomas’s Sky contract was and playfully suggested he’d be making a cheeky bid at some point in the future.
Although Thomas slipped backwards when the climb began to bite and ended the day five minutes down, he’d already made a huge impression during the opening week. The prologue performance, the silky smooth passage over the cobbles, the way he took it all in his stride, his week in the white jersey, all made people sit up and take notice.
Thomas was Sky’s success story of the season. At the spring Classics, he was put to work for the rest of the team and he did a sterling job – so good, in fact, that you wondered whether Sky would have been better off saving him a bit.
In June, at the Criterium du Dauphine, the signs were there that he would have a good Tour. In fact, races like the Dauphiné may well end up being right up Thomas’s street in the years to come. He always does a good prologue, he can mix it in the sprints and his climbing is getting better all the time.
Team Sky dominated the National Road Race Championship in Lancashire, taking the top three places. Thomas took the jersey with him into the Tour, arriving in Rotterdam in superb form.
It was unfortunate, to a degree, for Team Sky and Thomas that the misfiring efforts of Bradley Wiggins and the struggle to lower expectations meant that the very fine things he achieved were a little overlooked, or rather were not heralded as highly as they should have been. On any other team and in any other year, Thomas would have been celebrated as one of the breakthrough riders of the Tour.
Rob Hayles on Geraint Thomas
“His Tour de France alone was fantastic. He did a fantastic prologue and then that ride on the cobbles was phenomenal. We knew he was capable of something like that but I think it took a few people at the Tour by surprise. He finished second on the stage to Thor Hushovd, who isn’t bad, and took the white jersey. He was still second overall going into the mountains.
“The thing is, G didn’t get up there by chance. It wasn’t because he was lucky to be the right side of a split or something, he did it because he was absolutely on form and he was racing the race. I know that on the cobbled stage he volunteered to drop back to help Wiggo [Bradley Wiggins] but they told him to crack on.
“When it came to the mountain stage, you had people thinking he could stay with the leaders and take the yellow jersey. We were talking about it on Eurosport and the pressure he must’ve felt that day was immense, because he wants to deliver. He’ll probably have learned more from that day than anything else this year.
“G is one of those guys who is very level-headed. He’s got a real balance in his life. He’s always been someone who works hard but also plays hard. For all the laughing and joking, you can see it in his eyes when he wants to kill you on the bike.
“I’ve known him a long time. He showed me a picture of him and one of the other kids from the Maindy Flyers getting my autograph years ago. In 2005, he was supposed to be my Madison partner but he had that crash so I partnered Cav [Mark Cavendish] in LA and we won. Bordeaux in 2006 was G’s first Worlds and you could see he was special. He’s not a sheep. He didn’t follow the crowd. He already knew what worked for him and he stuck with it. A lot of young riders copy what the older guys do but he knew himself. To me, that is impressive, and something to look for in young riders.
“He’s had a fantastic year – white jersey in the Tour, national title. The question now is where he goes from here because he can be a real star. His time trialling is coming on, his climbing isn’t bad. Whether he can go on to be a rider for the Grand Tours, I don’t know but there’s so much he can do it’s a case of what does he want to focus on? For now, the Olympics is the big thing. He’s one of the best team pursuiters we’ve ever seen. When they set the world record, he and Ed [Clancy] were buzzing round. To have that much power from such a small frame is incredible. He hasn’t got big legs but he can buzz round the track. The way they were going, they could have split the team in two but the fact he held it together shows what a good rider he is.”
1st National Road Race Championship
2nd Tour de France stage three
5th Tour de France prologue
3rd National Time Trial Championship