Geraint Thomas has paid tribute to Mark Cavendish - his friend and former teammate - after the Manxman announced he would retire from professional cycling at the end of the current season.
Cavendish’s announcement came on Monday, during the second rest day of the Giro d'Italia, in a press conference organised by his current team Astana Qazaqstan.
Speaking to the media later in the afternoon, Thomas revealed that Cavendish had told him of his plans to retire before the race had got underway.
“I didn’t really believe him,” Thomas said. “I kind of thought he’d always keep going. He’s had an incredible career and obviously, he’s still racing now. He’s still got to get this record at the Tour and hopefully win a stage here [at the Giro]. I think we’ve known each other for about 25 years which is crazy. Thymen [Arensman], my teammate, is 23 so that kind of puts into perspective how old we are really.”
Thomas was part of the Great Britain team when Cavendish won the 2011 World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark and highlighted that particular race as a key moment in the years spent racing together.
“It’s an unbelievable career that he’s had, and I’m really proud to have been a teammate of his for a long time, helping him win the Worlds and that was great,” he added. “He’s the greatest sprinter of all time really when you see his record. It’s been an honour to ride with him. We’ve raced as under 23s and juniors all over the world and got a lot of experience together.”
“It’s kind of strange to see him retire actually, as it means I’m going to be soon as well. It’s a funny one, as you kind of think you’ll just always keep racing your bike but really you know you’re not.”
When asked if he had contemplated his own exit from the sport, Thomas shrugged off talk of imminent retirement.
“Like I said before at the start of this race, I just want to concentrate on this race,” Thomas said. “Talk has started with this team about extending, but I’m going to cross that bridge in a couple of weeks after the race.”
Full of confidence
After discussing his time spent racing with Cavendish, Thomas looked ahead to the third and final week of action at the Giro. Tuesday brings the first of a series of brutal mountain top finishes on Monte Bondone.
Later in the week, Thomas and his fellow general classification challengers face summit finishes at Val di Zoldo and Tre Cime di Lavaredo before Saturday’s mountain time trial on Monte Lussari.
Despite losing Tao Geoghegan Hart and Filippo Ganna last week to illness and injury respectively, the Welshman explained that he had every confidence in his remaining teammates ahead of what’s expected to be a week of drama as the Giro reaches its finale.
“We’re super confident. I think the way we’ve been riding has been really good,” Thomas added. “Swifty [Ben Swift] has been riding really well the last few days, Pavel [Sivakov] has been a little up and down after his crash but he’s still an unbelievable rider. Then [Laurens] De Plus, Thymen [Arensman] are just there and just as consistent as ever, obviously [Salvatore] Puccio is as well.”
“We’ve got a strong team, and I think with the way we’ve been racing we’ve shown we're definitely one of the strongest here. We’re motivated to try and do something now.”
Heading into the mountains of Trentino and the Dolomites, the Welshman currently sits second overall, one minute and eight seconds behind Groupama FDJ’s Bruno Armirail who currently wears the pink jersey of the race leader.
More importantly, Thomas is just two seconds ahead of Jumbo-Visma’s Primož Roglič who lies in third overall. João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) is a further 22 seconds back in fourth leaving the fight for overall victory wide open.
Assessing the situation, Thomas highlighted the unpredictable nature of the Giro.
“I don’t think any of us will feel too comfortable with the situation at the moment,” he said. “Between me and Primož there’s only two seconds and anything can happen. For sure, he’s going to try and gain time and the same for me as well and João. The next three mountain stages will be interesting because I think we’re all going to look, if we can, to try and get something over the others.”
“I think everyone in and around the top ten is still a threat. As we’ve said many times before at the Giro, a lot can change in that final week.”
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