Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) took his biggest win to date in 2016, claiming the overall victory in the prestigious Paris-Nice stage race in March and then won the Volta ao Algarve for a second year before tackling the Tour de France and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where he suffered mixed fortunes.
Writing in a blog for the Protect Your Bubble insurance website, for which Thomas is a brand ambassador, the Welshman said: “This year went well, all in all. I had the biggest win of my career with Paris-Nice and defended my Algarve title which I won in 2015. It wasn’t all plain sailing”.
Thomas’s season was in part defined by several crashes. He crashed during Milan-San Remo, and entered the Tour of Flanders after what he described as a ‘tough couple of weeks’. He finished 12th in Flanders during what was a reduced Classics season due to a commitment to focus more on stage races in 2016.
A below-par performance in June’s Tour de Suisse, where Thomas suffered from the cold, was not the ideal preparation for the Tour de France in July. His plans to finish highly in the Tour were also affected by an early crash.
“I have mixed feelings about the Tour de France this year,” wrote Thomas. “In the end I finished 15th, the same position I was in in 2015, but it was a completely different race for me this time around.
“I was fourth with two days to go in 2015 and had a lot of confidence in myself, this year it was more a case of doing my job as I crashed on the first stage and cracked my rib, which obviously meant I wasn’t at my best for the rest of the race.”
In August, it was off to the Rio Olympic Games, where Thomas was representing Great Britain in the road race – and also got a late call-up for the time trial due to other nations’ riders withdrawing.
Thomas was in the lead group in the road race, but crashed heavily on a corner on a technical descent, losing all chance of contesting the win.
“I was just off the front of the lead group coming down the final climb with roughly 10km to go and I crashed on the final corner and that was it, my race was over,” recounted Thomas.
“It was a combination of the road surface and my eagerness to get down the climb as quickly as possible. As a result of that crash I finished 11th. I was devastated afterwards. I was in with a great chance to win the race and if I hadn’t crashed and ended up seventh it would be easier to take, but the not knowing what could have happened grated on me for a while!”
Despite his injuries and lack of specific time trial preparation, Thomas placed ninth in the TT a few days later – a remarkable achievement.
After a break, Thomas was back in GB colours for the UCI Road World Championships in Qatar in October, where he was playing a supporting role for leader Mark Cavendish. This time it was a badly-timed puncture rather than a crash that put paid to his ride. Cavendish came in for second behind Peter Sagan.
“I punctured after a couple of km, along with Luke Rowe, out of the first group, and that was it. We ended up watching the final 30km on the TV in the hotel room! Unfortunately, Cav couldn’t quite win but a silver medal ended a great season for him this year. I was gutted I couldn’t help Cav more but that’s the way it goes in sport I guess, sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you plan it.”
Thomas has already started his training for the 2017 season, which he says he’s hoping will be his best yet.