Geraint Thomas’ season may have been a turbulent one, but the 2018 Tour de France winner has his sights set on a “few more good years” to come, starting with a huge year in 2021.
The Cardiff-born superstar crashed out of the Giro d’Italia last month after a freak accident involving a water bottle.
Thomas suffered a fractured hip as his chances of victory went up in smoke before he truly had a chance to demonstrate his credentials.
The 34-year-old spoke exclusively to RadioTimes.com around the launch of his book, Mountains According to G, about how his passion for the sport has only increased following the initial UK COVID-19 lockdown and his role as an elder statesman among a stable of young British riders.
When asked about whether his love of cycling had continued to develop in the latter stages of his career, Thomas was adamant: “Yeah, definitely. Even more so now.
“With the first lockdown and everything I ended up just going through the motions a bit thinking, ‘Woah, are we going to race this year?’ but then as soon as I got racing again I got that buzz back again.
“Last year, in 2019, it felt like I was playing catch-up most of the season.
“After winning the Tour it was mad, I was here, there and everywhere and didn’t really have a decent winter so I felt like I was chasing the form.
“It doesn’t really feel like I’ve had much racing over the last couple of years really, that’s why crashing out of the Giro wasn’t ideal because I felt like I was just really enjoying racing my bike again, and suddenly that was cut short and over.
“I’m just looking forward to the next few years, racing as much as I can.
“The way my career’s gone has been really good. I had the track, then the one-day classics as a target, then the week-long races, and now the Grand Tours. I’ve had a taste of everything but hopefully a few more good years left though.”
Of course, there will be plenty of opportunities for Thomas to sink his teeth into meaty challenges in 2021, with the rescheduled Olympic Games set to provide an opportunity for further glory and unfinished business in the Giro d’Italia.
He said: “The Olympics is definitely massive and something I want to do with time trials and the road race.
“I think the road race, as a team, we’ve got a lot of good guys who should go well on that course.
“The time trial really suits me as well. Hopefully, getting selected for it first obviously, then going the best I can there.
Read more: How to watch Olympics 2020 Opening Ceremony
“On the Grand Tours, I’d love to go back to the Tour de France and try to win that again but the Giro is still, even more so now, massively on my radar.
“I want to go back there and maybe third time lucky at some point. That’s one thing after this season, when the course, the route are announced, we’ll sit down with the team as well and make a plan.
“We’ve obviously got a lot of good guys in the team now so we have to see what everyone’s ambitions are and go from there.”
In Thomas’ absence, British teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart claimed a shock overall victory in the 2020 Giro.
The 25-year-old has put his name on the map going forward, and Thomas hopes he can help the next generation of Team GB cycling prodigies develop to reach their vast potential.
“He’d be the first to say he’s the most surprised!
“He went there to help me try to win it, I crashed out three days in and he’s stepped up with no pressure on him. He just raced hard.
“Suddenly in the last week he’s there with a shout of winning and nothing to lose. The way he handled that was really good, it will do his confidence the world of good going forward, but now is the real test to see how he backs that up.
“There’s going to be a lot more tension around him, but as I’ve said before, that’s where I can help him out a little.”
“They’re still young with a lot to learn. They ride their bikes super fast but there’s a lot more to it than just that. I think when you’re young, there’s no pressure really, you just come on the scene and ‘boom’ you win some massive races and it’s hard to back it up then, or to deal with the tension and pressure.
“I’m not one to talk a lot though, but I want to lead by example almost and obviously pass on a few pearls of wisdom, but it’s more just being around them in training camps when you see them doing little things.
“I’ve been lucky that I’ve always had a good team around me with GB, that really set me up for the back end of my career now because there was so much pressure on the track.
“There were hundredths of a second separating gold and silver, bronze and nothing, and when you’ve trained for it for so long with three of your good mates, there’s a lot of pressure there, not just for your own success, but not to mess it up for them. That set me up really well with dealing with pressure.”
While the younger guys are beginning to poke through in the Grand Tours, Thomas is far from done, a long way from the finish line, though in writing Mountains According to G, he has looked back to warmly reminisce about some of the finest, literal peaks throughout his career.
He identified his No.1 with little hesitation: “Alpe d’Huez is always going to be a special one.
“Even before I won up there in 2018, it’s just so iconic. It’s the biggest, maybe not the longest or hardest, with so much history and the atmosphere up there when you’re in the race is just incredible really with 21 hairpins.
“A few nationalities have claimed a couple of them, you’ve obviously got Dutch corner, they’ve done Irish corner and Welsh corner and that’s really special. You definitely buzz off that when you’re racing up there.
“To have a corner, they’ve got my name on a hairpin now, is really special.
“Even if I wasn’t a professional, and wasn’t lucky enough to race and win up there, that’s the one I would aim to try and get out and ride one day.
“That’s what’s special about cycling. You can’t just run on at Wembley and score a goal, or dive over the try line at the Principality Stadium, that’s what makes cycling so special, anyone can do it.”
Mountains According to G by Geraint Thomas is published by Quercus with an RRP of £16.99.
If you’re looking for something else to watch check out our TV Guide.