Geraint Thomas has been called up to the World Championship team to replace Mark Cavendish, who announced his withdrawal last night.
The 22-year-old Barloworld rider joins Steve Cummings, David Millar, Chris Froome, Ian Stannard and Russell Downing in the six-man team for the road race in Varese, Italy, on September 28.
But it meant another disappointment for An Post rider Dan Fleeman, who felt he should have got the place following Cavendish’s withdrawal.
“I was disappointed not to be in the original six but I thought it would probably be between me and Russ for the last place. He did a really good ride in the Tour of Ireland and I thought ‘well, fair enough, he deserves it’.
“But then I see Cav is out and I thought ‘I’ve got to be in now’. I don’t know what more I have to do to get in the team,” said the 25-year-old, who was seventh overall in the Tour of Britain last week.
“Geraint is a classy rider, he’s a really good rider, and I haven’t got any complaint with him, but he hasn’t got any form.
“I finished 37 minutes ahead of him in the Tour of Britain and I’d have thought that’s relevant.
“My form is really good. I believe I can finish the race and work for the team in the final third. I wouldn’t go there and upset the applecart.”
But Thomas got the nod, as Sciandri explained. “I want someone to do a specific job in the team. I said to him ‘Enjoy yourself after the Olympics,’ so we knew he wouldn’t be on top form at the Tour of Britain.
“But he did a good job there and he was getting better every day. He is getting stronger every day and he’s got a couple of races in Italy this weekend, so he’ll be ready.
“I needed someone who has experience at that level. He’s finished two grand tours, he can move around the bunch. He can see things happening in the race. If he’s going to go back to the team car for the team, he can get back to the bunch quickly. There is a specific job in the team and he’s the right man to do it. I want to keep the core of a team together and give them all as much experience as they can.
“For sure guys like Fleeman and [Dan] Lloyd are in the picture but it came down to picking a guy for the job. Next year they will be stepping up a level [Fleeman and Lloyd are set to join the Cervélo team] and they will be part of the picture. The British team is getting stronger every year and hopefully in future we will have more than six in the team, then we won’t have to make so many difficult choices.”
Although Thomas’s name was not included on the nine-man list of riders submitted to the UCI, from which the final six would be selected, Sciandri does not believe it to be a problem. “You can have reserves. There’s still time to update the list so I don’t think it’s a problem.”
In the end, it seems the fact Thomas races for a bigger team and has experience of finishing the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia outweighed the fact that since this year’s Giro, he has spent much of his time concentrating on the track, preparing for the Olympics.
Since the Giro ended, Thomas has ridden the Ster Elektrotoer in Holland at the end of June ? where he was third in the prologue time trial ? and the Tour of Britain.
But despite the relative lack of road miles there is no doubting his class. British Cycling recognise believe he can be a world-class rider in the Classics. He did, after all, win the junior Paris-Roubaix in 2004 ? the day when Ian Stannard was second to complete a British one-two.
Thomas is scheduled to ride the Memorial Viviana Manservisi (Saturday) and the GP Prato (Sunday).
Men’s elite road race team
Six riders to start Steve Cummings, Chris Froome, David Millar, Ian Stannard, Russell Downing, Geraint Thomas
Men’s elite time trial
Two to start Steve Cummings, Chris Froome, David Millar
Under-23 men’s road race
Five to start Ben Swift, Jonny Bellis, Peter Kennaugh, Jonny McEvoy, Alex Dowsett
Under-23 men’s time trial
Two to start Alex Dowsett, Russell Hampton
Cavendish pulls out of Worlds team
Great Britain names six for men’s road race at the World Championships
Britain’s World Championship shortlists: men, women and under-23. Profiles of the riders