Geraint Thomas had little time to dwell on his part in Great Britain’s team pursuit victory at the UCI Track World Championships.
While Ben Swift, who won his first rainbow jersey in the scratch race in Australia, was treated to a homecoming party, Thomas was left to negotiate “a ton of mail and trip to Tesco” having returned to his Manchester home.
Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was back on two wheels, swapping the track for the road to join a group of journalists previewing a 30-mile section of the Etape Cymru, a closed roads sportive billed as the UK’s toughest ride and set to take place on Sunday September 9.
Single figure temperatures and heavy April showers in north Wales represented a stark contrast from Australia’s autumn sunshine and the Melbourne podium where Thomas, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Pete Kennaugh had been stood a week previously having set a world record time of 3:53.295 minutes to gain revenge on Australia’s quartet, who had triumphed at the London-leg of the World Cup in February.
With the Olympic Games on the horizon and the two teams likely to meet in the team pursuit final, the three-leg series stands at 1-1; but, speaking to RoadCyclingUK, Thomas believes Great Britain have gained the psychological edge ahead of London 2012.
“We knew we’d done a lot since London and we knew we had a good chance of winning but the time was a bit of a surprise,” said Thomas, who expects the world record to fall by “a couple of seconds”.
“We didn’t think we would get a world record, particularly flying out there, but after qualifying we knew we could go out and take the world record.
“That was amazing, especially in Melbourne, in their own back yard. I think it definitely hurt them – but if we had lost there then we would have been determined to turn it around before London.
“It was great to go out there and prove we’ve still got it because a lot of people were doubting us. We’re confident we’ll keep on improving all the way through, and I’m sure the Aussies are because they’re young and hungry, so it’s going to be a great race.”
From Australia to Wales, and now to Italy, Thomas’ return to his homeland was short-lived and he will now embark on a week’s training in Quarrata, the Italian town where he was based as part of British Cycling’s first Academy intake with Clancy and world road race champion, Mark Cavendish.
Thomas will then spend a week at home before riding in support of Bradley Wiggins and Cavendish at the Tour of Romandie and going on to tackle his second Giro d’Italia, earning valuable endurance miles before returning to the track for the final run-in to London, although the transition from Tarmac to the boards can be tricky.
“The road’s completely different to the track,” said Thomas. “The track’s moved on so much, it’s so fast, but it’s harder to go back from the road to the track because there’s no place to hide. In a road race you can scuttle about a bit and work your way into it but on the track you’re straight in there and if you haven’t got it then you’re out of the team.”
Looking beyond the Olympics, Thomas plans to race the Tour of Denmark and the Tour of Britain. “But there won’t be anything performance-wise, I’ll just be working for the team, because it’s my job to do it,” he said.
The Games remain Thomas’ primary focus in 2012, however, and the 26-year-old has shrugged aside criticism from Great Britain’s head coach Shane Sutton, who believes the Team Sky rider may be jeopardising his career as a road rider by sacrificing this season.
But Thomas is relishing the prospect of returning to the peloton full-time and the 26-year-old plans to launch an assault on the spring Classics in 2013, having been forced to watch this year’s races on television.
“It was hard to watch, for sure,” admitted Thomas. “I was watching it and part of me wished I was there, because I do, but at the same time I think I’m missing it for the right reasons.
“It definitely keeps me hungry and as soon as the Games are done I’ll see out the end of the season but, come November, I’ll be back on it and trying to go for those Classics and keep pushing forward. I was tenth last year in Flanders and I want get on the podium one day. That’s what I’m striving for.
“It’s the one I’ve got some sort of results in at the minute and it’s a race that I love. Paris-Roubaix’s an amazing race as well and I’d take a podium in either, but I think I’m suited more to Flanders at the minute.
Thomas has significant pedigree in the cobbled Classics, having registered that tenth place finish in the Tour of Flanders in 2011, while the Cardiff-born rider won junior Paris-Roubaix in 2004, eight years after first riding on the outdoor track at the Maindy Stadium.
“I just stumbled upon [cycling],” said Thomas. “I was going swimming down the local leisure centre and they had a track there, I saw an advert for a kids club starting up so I went along to that and it just went from there.
“Even as an under-12 I was winning, then all the way through to junior, then I won my first Peter Buckley Trophy, and it was something I’ve always seemed to have a knack for and be pretty handy at.
“We started travelling over the UK racing in the minibus, camping out and just having a laugh. Then I went onto the British programme, won [the scratch race] at the junior worlds and rest is history.”
History has left Thomas with an Olympic gold medal to his name, while, on the road, the Welshman earned his first stage race victory 2011, winning the five-day Bayern-Rundfahrt in May 2011, while he has also enjoyed significant stints in the Tour de France’s white jersey for best young rider in the past two editions of the race.
But despite being one of the peloton’s hottest properties, life on the road has made Thomas appreciate the simple things in life.
“A treat would probably be a coffee stop and to have a slice of cake,” he said. “A steak maybe, that would be great, and maybe a glass of wine – just the simple things like that.
“When I have time off it’s just nice to be home and just sit down and watch the telly; just watch some normal telly. It sounds weird but you don’t have the chance to do that when you’re constantly on the road in different countries.”
The London Olympics will, however, allow Thomas to enjoy significant time at home in 2012, with a block of training in Manchester after the Giro, before Great Britain’s track cyclists head to Newport for their pre-Games holding camp, a short hop down the M4 from Cardiff. “It will be like being at home,” said Thomas.
And so, with the World Championships another hurdle cleared before London 2012, Thomas is embarking on the most important phase of his career to date. But has he ever contemplated life after cycling?
“All I’ve ever thought about is racing and hopefully I’ve got another ten years or so,” he said. “It’s something I’ll definitely start to think about in a few years but all I’m thinking about at the moment is the London Olympics – and that’s that.”