Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) says he’s relishing the prospect of returning to the Classics this spring, after a couple of years of sitting most of them out to focus on stage races. The Welshman will take on cobbled Monument Paris-Roubaix in April, before making his debut at Liège-Bastogne-Liège a couple of weeks later.
Thomas last completed a full cobbled Classics campaign in 2015, taking one of his biggest career victories at E3 Harelbeke and third place at Ghent-Wevelgem shortly after.
He then adjusted his programme in 2016, only riding the Tour of Flanders as he built his season around stage racing, taking Paris-Nice overall victory along the way. He didn’t ride a single Classic in 2017, with his season built around the stage races ahead of the Giro d’Italia, where he made his Grand Tour leadership debut, before ultimately crashing out of the race.
Thomas has taken a slower approach to the 2018 season, skipping the Tour Down Under and making his first competitive appearance this week at the Volta ao Algarve. The 31-year-old will then structure the season around the approach to the Tour de France, with the inclusion of a cobbled stage as good a reason as any to return to the races closest to his heart.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I love racing the Classics,” Thomas told TeamSky.com on his Roubaix return. “They are the races I grew up watching and I’ve had a little bit of relative success in them in the past.
“I’ll still be training as a stage racer, trying to go up hills as fast as I can, but I’m super excited about dropping in and doing Roubaix.
“I’m definitely not going to be as good as I could be when it comes to that real punch and capacity effort over a few minutes. But the form should be good and it’s still a bike race – anything can happen, especially at Roubaix. There have been surprise winners in the past.”
“You never know, but I would hope to be there towards the final. If I can be there to help one of the other guys win that would be great.”
Despite his previous success overall at Paris-Nice, Thomas will then return to the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in Italy where he impressed last year up against pure climbers like Nairo Quintana (Movistar), taking a stage victory and fifth place overall.
With his slower start to the season though, which saw him head out to LA for some warm weather training, Thomas says he’s unsure how his form will be heading into the Algarve and through to Tirreno.
“I’d like to go and do a good ride in Tirreno, especially after last year and the bad luck we had in the team time trial,” he said.
“We’ll just have to see how the form is after Algarve really. With my slightly slower start I’m not sure exactly where I’m going to be – but I should be there or thereabouts.
“I’m hoping the slower start will help me at the Tour – that’s the plan. It’s a steady build up to keep me a bit fresher for longer. Hopefully I can go into the Tour in good shape.”