By Sophie Smith
Geraint Thomas has agreed to gamble on a new schedule as he prepares for an inaugural Giro d’Italia title assault.
The spring classics have previously been an objective for the 30-year-old, who this year will skip them entirely for stages races and training camps he hasn’t previously embarked on with Team Sky.
“This first part of the year is completely different to the norm, which is exciting but also a bit scary,” said Thomas from Adelaide, Australia where he will start his season at the Tour Down Under on Tuesday (January 17).
The Welshman has reached a new level of maturation at Sky, which he has become a mainstay of since joining in 2010. Thomas last year negotiated a two-year contract extension without rider agent Andrew McQuaid, dealing with team principal David Brailsford directly.
“I feel like I can speak to Dave,” he said. “When it came to that point I knew I wanted to stay for numerous reasons. I thought I can do it myself, speak to Dave and thrash it out. I just felt old and wise enough to do it myself, and I was happy with what we came to.”
Thomas speaks with an increased assertiveness when asked what would constitute a good Giro where he and Spaniard Mikel Landa will jointly lead Sky in its maglia rosa bid. It’s a largely new responsibility for the former, whose designs to serve as a Plan B for Sky at the Tour de France last year ultimately did not materialise.
“If I was top 10 in the Giro it would be the best result I’ve had in a Grand Tour, which would be a step forward,” said Thomas, who has finished 15th at the Tour the past two years. “But you want to go in and get the best result you can.
“It’s hard to put a result because there are so many other things that can affect it, but I think if I have the best preparation into the Giro and give it everything then that’s a success.”
Thomas put forward the Giro to Brailsford and head of performance Tim Kerrison at the end of last year, buoyed by their faith and the goal in general over a shorter pre-season.
“Tim was right on board straight away. I think from a coaching point of view, your coach has to be enthusiastic as well about what you’re doing,” he said.
With Grand Tour leadership comes authority and the Paris-Nice champion wouldn’t name chief lieutenants he’d like to employ in his bid.
“You care but at the same time the squad is so strong,” he said. “I’ve seen some of the names on the list and I’m certainly happy to ride with them. It is kind of strange though, being one of the older guys in the team now. It’s a weird feeling."
The Giro constitutes Thomas’s primary goal for the year but he is still pencilled in to race the Tour and support defending champion Chris Froome.
“A lot can happen between now and then, but Dave and Tim are still super keen for me to go to the Tour,” he said. “That will be another challenge as well, not just trying to peak for May and be good there, but recover and still be good in the Tour to help the boys.”
The dual Olympic gold medallist has marked a shorter pre-season than normal due to a late finish to last season, at the World Championships in October, and because dates for the Tour Down Under were moved forward.
He’s confident in his form ahead of the hillier, first WorldTour race of the season, however, where he is due to work for sprinter Danny van Poppel and title hopeful Sergio Henao.
“I’ll go as hard as I can. If I can get a little result myself that would be amazing but Sergio for sure is the main man,” he said.
Thomas will stay-on in Adelaide for a training block after Down Under before meeting Froome at another camp in South Africa.
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