For anyone wondering who the most talented footballer is at Ineos Grenadiers, the answer is Geraint Thomas. At least according to Geraint Thomas it is, anyway.
Last month, Thomas and his teammates travelled to the French riviera to take part in a training session with top flight football club OGC Nice.
"It was like being a kid again," the Tour de France winner told Cycling Weekly.
During the session, he explained, 130 riders and staff were split into groups to practise free-kicks, penalties and passing drills.
"Most cyclists have two left feet," the Welshman said. "I wanted to have a proper game. That's where you'd really see it. You'd get to see everyone. But I think they were worried some of use would get injured, which for sure we would.
"I'm going to have to say that I was one of the best."
Had it come down to a game, the 36-year-old said he’d have taken up an attacking midfield role, much like his latest podcast guest, Wales international Aaron Ramsey. “I would have been like a number 10, just in the pocket. Pinging them all over the shop and taking a few [shots] myself. Making it happen.”
Thomas added that he wouldn’t cower out of a tackle either, not even against 6ft3 Hour Record holder Filippo Ganna, who he described as a “big softie”.
On Monday, the Ineos Grenadiers rider's native Wales will face their first football World Cup game for 64 years. The last time the country qualified for the tournament, Jacques Anquetil had won just one of his five Tour titles.
Speaking about the Qatar World Cup, Thomas said: “I’m really looking forward to it now. I think I need to set up a few sweepstakes with the family and some mates as well, just to make it a bit more interesting."
Qatar has been criticised in the run-up to the tournament for its mistreatment of migrant workers, as well as its stance on homosexuality, which is illegal and punishable with imprisonment in the country.
“Obviously there are other things around [the tournament], you know the human rights and all that stuff," Thomas said. "I kind of feel sorry for some of the boys. There’s so much pressure on them to be megastars and do this and do that, but at the end of the day, you just want to perform and you don’t really think of the politics.”
Geraint the Gooner
Though rugby often takes precedence, Thomas has kept a close eye on the Premier League results this season, with his side Arsenal currently topping the table. "Five points clear. Decent, innit?" he said.
Asked if his team can continue their form and win the league, Thomas replied: "I'm going to say yeah. I don't know if we've got the squad for it, but you've got to believe."
In fairness, it might be a wonder how a boy from Cardiff came to support a London-based club. "When I was a kid in school, most of my mates were [Manchester] United and that’s when Arsenal were competing for the Premier League, year-in year-out," the Welshman said.
"Cardiff and Swansea weren’t even in there. You have to support someone in the Premiership so I went for Arsenal. I liked Thierry Henry.
"My mum randomly managed to buy me the right shirt. It was the yellow away shirt with the three stripes over the shoulder, when there was JVC [as a sponsor]."
Sadly, he added, the shirt was thrown away a long time ago.
The Geraint Thomas Cycling Club podcast, now in its third season, is part of Crowd Network's sports division.
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