Mark Cavendish may be the name dominating cycling’s end-of-year awards season but the world road race champion will have to share the limelight after Geraint Thomas was rewarded for his outstanding season by being named the British Olympic Association’s Athlete of the Year for cycling.
The award, introduced in 2005 after London was awarded the Olympic Games and to mark the BOA’s centenary year, sees a trophy handed to each of the 33 summer and winter Olympic sports for them to award to their top performing athlete of the year.
“I am really proud to win, although if I am honest, it’s a massive shock to receive this great award,” said Thomas on his website.
“But it is also a massive honour. The way cycling is at the minute makes this an even greater achievement. It is really nice to get some recognition for all the dedication and hard work that we put in day in and day out.”
Thomas made his breakthrough year on the road in 2010 and brought that form into 2011, registering top five finishes in two stages of the Tour de France and wearing the race’s white jersey for best young rider for the opening week.
Bradley Wiggins’ crash on stage seven saw Thomas lose the jersey after waiting to try and assist the injured Team Sky leader but Welshman Thomas went on to briefly lead the race as virtual maillot jaune over the Col du Tourmalet on stage 12 before finishing in Paris as the top Briton in 31st place.
Thomas also registered a top 10 finish in the Tour of Flanders – his favourite race – and claimed overall victory in the Bayern-Rundfahrt stage race, while also taking on the role of leadout man in Cavendish’s World Championship win.
Thomas’ road career will be put on hold in 2012, however, with the 25-year-old Olympic gold medallist returning to the track to concentrate on the defence of Great Britain’s team pursuit title in London.
Team GB chef de mission and BOA chief executive Andy Hunt said: “The Olympic Athlete of the Year award celebrates the excellence of athletes who represent the very best of British talent in their respective Olympic sports.
“I wish all the award winners the very best as they enter the home straight of their preparations for London 2012, or continue their journey towards Sochi 2014 [Winter Olympics].”
Other BOA winners include track-and-field athlete Mo Farah, who won 5,000m World Championship gold, and swimmer Keri-Anne Payne, who won world 10,000m open water gold, becoming in the process the first British athlete in any sport to qualify for London 2012. View the full list of winners here.