By Jonny Long
"My head was in a bucket," says Geraint Thomas, describing how he felt after stage eight of the Tour de France when his GC ambitions imploded, losing half an hour as he finally, totally, succumbed to the injuries sustained in a crash on stage three.
So downbeat was the Welshman in an interview with Velon that it was pulled almost as soon as it had been sent out. That night, Thomas slept on it, and returned to the start line of stage nine, overheard telling a rider as the peloton rolled out that he was still a bit sore.
He was also resurgent, however, as the road kicked up towards Tignes, pulling on the front, reasserting himself at the race he won in 2018, and there now seems to be a fairly good chance he'll continue to Paris.
"I think if I hadn’t bounced back as I did yesterday it would be more of a discussion," Thomas said of potentially abandoning the Tour for only the second time in what is his 11th participation. "But it’s the Tour and I didn’t want to just leave, but at the same time it’s the whole Olympics thing, weighing up what’s best. It’s six and two threes I guess, staying here, with the massage, physio, chef, I can go easier some days and go harder some days. The only thing is the quick turnaround from travelling out there basically."
Thomas will continue for the time being and hope his condition continues to improve. His shoulder doesn't bother him after it's strapped up before each stage and his hip is more or less fine once he's racing and warmed up.
It was just getting through those early stages banged up that was the issue, requiring 80 per cent as opposed to the usual 50 per cent of energy, and more time on the physio table meant less time winding down in the evening, talking with family, and the craziness of stage eight was inopportunely timed, which Tomas says "definitely played a big part" in how his race unravelled so quickly.
We all know Thomas is gutsy on the bike, but his honesty about how much of a mental struggle dealing with this disappointment was, as well as cracking a few jokes in the rest day press conference while being asked to relive this disappointment, shows his all-round robustness.
"I think I just fight and go deep with everything really, out in the bike race or out on the piss," Thomas says of his unwillingness to throw in the towel at the Tour just yet. "I'm not one to sort of give up easily and if there’s ever a chance to maybe get better.
"Starting the stage [nine] I thought it was going to be the same as the day before. You fight and give it everything and you can turn it around and come out better."
As he suffered in the gruppetto on stage eight, his immediate future did flit between varying timelines. Abandoning to focus on the Olympics, and then maybe have a tilt at the Vuelta a España was one possibility, but Thomas says it would demand too much mentally to refocus for another Grand Tour after going all-in for a shot at another yellow jersey.
"I’d find it had to focus on the Vuelta now," he admits. "I’ve put so much into getting ready for here, all that mental energy is almost at zero once I get to the TT at the Olympics, my mind will be almost completely spent because I've put so much into it.
"It’d be knuckling down [beforehand] for only another two weeks but then you’ve got three weeks of hard racing, more time away from family and it’d take a lot to get my head around."
For the rest of this Tour, Thomas feels he can go for a stage as well as assisting Richard "Billy" Carapaz when required.
"There’s no pressure on me now here, so I'll just make the most of it. I’ve not got many more Tours in me really, 35 now," he says.
Does he think this could be his last Tour?
“No,” he smiles, wryly. “It’s not the last. My contract is up this year and I’d like the Paris Olympics to be a final big goal, so maybe three more years. Certainly a couple more Tours in there."
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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