It is half past four in the afternoon, but Geraint Thomas sounds like he’s just woken up when he answers the call from Cycling Weekly. “Sorry, I forgot you were going to ring,” he says. “I’d dropped off for a bit. I’ve not long been home after travelling back from the Tour of Germany, and the racing there and the journey afterwards has taken a toll, to be honest.”
The weariness in the Welshman’s voice is evident and is, he admits, a symptom of his very different approach to the post-Tour de France phase of the racing season. Usually, he winds down steadily during August and September, having peaked for July. This year, though, he is building towards another major objective, with his sights now set on the World Championships in Yorkshire. He is, he admits, hoping to gain selection for the time trial and the road race, but it is the former that is his principal focus. “Training for that is what’s been getting me out of bed in the morning,” he says. “I’ve been keen to keep training because the Worlds are on home ground and as a consequence they’re a big goal for me.”
Following the Tour, Thomas had 12 days away from the bike. “It’s been quite hard to come back after that,” he confesses. “I didn’t think I’d feel as tired as I did, but maybe the build-up to the Tour took a lot more out of me than I actually realised.”
Reflecting on the Tour, he agrees with the suggestion that it was a great race, but ultimately something of an anti-climax as a result of the extreme weather and landslides that led to the shortening of the two critical stages in the Alps in the days immediately before the finish in Paris.
“The day when the stage [to Tignes] was stopped was a strange one, especially as we then found out the finish line was actually back behind us and, of course, we hadn’t known that that was going to be the finish line. And then, the next day, it wasn’t possible to run the whole stage because of the landslides. So it was kind of a weird finale, strange for the last two days to end that way. Obviously, there was nothing that the organisers could have done, but it was a bit of a shame, although the end result was good for the team with Egan [Bernal] winning,” he says.
Having gone into the Tour as the defending champion, Thomas admits that, on the one hand, he was a bit disappointed to end up in second place, but, on the other, was ultimately content with his performance given his struggles over the preceding months. “Clearly I wanted to win it,” he affirms, “but I think the overriding feeling was one of being happy at how I managed to get back into decent enough shape to be on the podium.
If I hadn’t won in 2018, then I would have been over the moon with second. But given how the previous 12 months had been, I think it was still good to be in that position. From the off-season, all the way through to the way the racing went this year, for one reason or another it was just harder to get back to the same sort of fitness that I had in 2018.
“I got a bit sick in Tirreno and then there was the crash in the Tour de Suisse, and incidents like that made the run-up completely different to last year. The off-season had been so different as well. I was off the bike for twice as long and was 10 times as busy as normal. As a consequence, the overriding feeling ultimately was one of satisfaction that I was able to overcome a lot of hurdles and still end up second in the Tour de France. That was something that I could be proud of, especially as it was a team-mate who finished in front of me.”
Read the rest of our interview with Geraint Thomas in this week’s issue of Cycling Weekly magazine which also includes full details of every race at the World Champioships in Yorkshire.