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Leaving Team Sky behind to start Olympic training

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Geraint Thomas | 06:44 UK time, Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Being a part of Bradley Wiggins's Paris-Nice win last week was amazing and as much a victory for me as for him.

Paris-Nice is a massive race and it has history. To go there as part of a British team, riding for Brad all week, and for him to finish it off in the time trial is a great feeling.

For the first time, I took on the role of road captain, calling any shots if we needed to ride or if something went wrong. My job meant being near Brad the whole week, protecting him, sheltering him from the wind and keeping him near the front, out of the way of any crashes.

There were a few days when the wind and crashes played quite a crucial part - fortunately we were at the front and pretty vigilant the whole time. Once we got into the high mountains, that was my job done and the climbers in the team looked after him towards the end. I enjoyed having that extra responsibility and it couldn't have gone better.

But I left before Sunday's time trial so I could recover in time to start training on the track for London 2012 this week and it felt strange leaving everyone behind.

At Paris-Nice with Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins

I was road captain for Paris-Nice, protecting Bradley Wiggins, who went on to win. Photo: Getty Images

I'd like to have stayed on and been a part of it, especially with Brad winning. It's never nice leaving before the end of a race anyway.

But in a home Olympic year I have to look at the bigger picture: the coaches and staff told me that's what they wanted me to do and that coming back would be best for me on the track. The call was made and it's the right thing to do. If I'd raced on Sunday it would have prolonged my recovery from Paris-Nice.

That big picture is sometimes hard to keep in mind. Being a part of the Paris-Nice win was a taste of things to come for Team Sky, I'm sure, and I feel the same about not riding the Tour de France this summer. Riding Paris-Nice made me realise how much I actually miss, and enjoy, riding the road and the day-in, day-out battles that come with it.

It can be hard to see that leaving it behind is the right thing to do, but when I talk to the coaches I know they're correct. There will be more Tours, and I'm sure Brad will be battling for the win for years to come. It's still disappointing, and I wish I was riding, but - as I've been saying for four years now - the Games are a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me. If only they were at a different time of year.

Brad still has as good a chance of winning the Tour without me there. The team has moved on so much since we started: the squad has been strengthened massively since 2010, there are plenty of good riders around now, and it'll be a fight to get into the line-up for the Tour. There will be great support around both Brad and Mark Cavendish.

Brad has his quiet days when he keeps himself to himself and doesn't say a lot, but mostly he has his usual days as one of the lads, joking around and doing his impressions of people. You wouldn't think he's this big superstar. Ever since he got that fourth place in the Tour and came to Sky, he's grown in confidence and grown into his new role. You can see from Paris-Nice that his belief in himself is growing.

Everyone at Team Sky is similarly confident and relaxed. It's taken a year or so for everything to gel, to get to know how everyone rides on the bike, but now people know what they are doing and the new guys coming into the team have slotted straight in.

Moving from there to the velodrome will be massively different for me. The road is more freestyle, it relies a lot more on feel and road racing has plenty of variables.The track is scrutinised 100%, every effort, every lap. You have your graph and if you've slowed up by 0.1 seconds, you can see it. It's a lot more regimented and controlled.

I still enjoy it - I wouldn't be trying to win the gold medal in London if I didn't - but they are very different disciplines now, especially with the track being so fast. You need to respect the event and give it a lot of time, which is what I'm trying to do.

At last month's World Cup, in London's Olympic Velodrome, we lost the team pursuit final to Australia and that wasn't nice. There were quite a few minor mistakes in there, but not enough that we would have won, even if the margin could have been a lot smaller.

We have taken a lot from that. Since November we have moved on with what is really a new squad. I've been away for so long, three years or more since Beijing, that it's taken me a while to get back up to speed. I feel like I'm getting there now.

Losing at home gives us motivation to push forward and turn it around for the Games. People talk about the battle between us and Australia in terms of who's chasing and who's being chased, but I never see it like that. Whether you're chasing the Aussies or they're chasing you, does it make much difference? You get on with it, you race as hard as you can.

What does make a difference is Jack Bobridge. He was the strongest Australian rider by far and he is a massive talent. He was going well in London and if we overtake the Aussies come August, the track time we get between now and then will be key to that.

I haven't had a lot, maybe two-and-a-half weeks before London plus a few weeks in November, and that's why I'm back on the track now. There is a lot to come from me there and I still believe we have a great chance of doing something.

The World Championships are in Melbourne in a few weeks' time and we definitely want to go faster there than we did in London. But how much the Aussies will improve in front of their home crowd, I don't know. We have to focus on ourselves and work as hard as we can, because we can't affect anything they do - unless we go up and punch them in the face.

(Which we're not going to do.)

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Great blog Geraint. I was glued to Paris-Nice last week, seeing how Team Sky controlled the peleton was fantastic. Hopefully this column will be read by non-cyclists as well and help to explain the teamwork and selflessness needed to win races.

    Brave, but understandable, decision to go for track success at the Olympics. Lots more Grand Tours in the future and with your engine I wouldn't bet against a few classics victories in the future. Geraint Thomas - Paris-Roubaix winner has a good ring to it.

    Good luck to all at British Cycling and Team Sky.

  • Comment number 2.

    Great post as always, Geraint.

    I have one question: The Aussies looked pretty imperious at the test event (I was there). There was speculation in the mixed zone about the possibility of Brad being drafted into the TP come Games time. Is that an option that's been discussed at all?

  • Comment number 3.

    Congratulations, Geraint, on a great result for your team last week. It is great to see you and Sky competing and winning at that level. As for your team mate, I think Wiggins looked really sharp during the week and nailing it on the final time trial was a fitting finish. With all those extra TT miles in the TdF, who knows what's possible this summer..

    All the very best for Melbourne - British cycling is outstanding on the track. OK, some results could have been better last month in London, but there were still 4 gold medals and no other nation had more than 1!

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Is the 4 definitely decided on then, barring the claim Wiggins will compete (not going to happen)

    Clancy, Thomas, Kennaugh and Burke?

    I know British cycling is at the top of its game right now but would it benefit the team if it took on a similar approach to the rowing where team mates would ride against each other in order to determine the best riders for each team event?

    Also of interest is who will lead out Kenny and How for the sprint. Still not replaced Staff and not looking like we're close yet to getting the right combination.

  • Comment number 6.

    Like I guess many sports fans I now have a serious Cycling bug, love watching the races road and track.

    Sporting achievements to be proud of looking forward to all the competitions between now & the Olympics. Keep blogging please

  • Comment number 7.

    Whilst looking at the Aussies and yourselves, don't overlook the Danes, Germans and French...
    Best wishes to Geraint (Cymru Am Byth!) and the rest of the GB riders!

  • Comment number 8.

    on saturday, i watched you lead BW down from greoliere..perfect train. i then legged it over to the back of col de vence and saw an awesome descent towards coursegoules.
    brilliant team work, good luck with the medal hunt, you deserve it
    mb

  • Comment number 9.

    Great read, Geraint. When you read about the amount of work that the team have done in Paris-Nice and, before that, the World Championship Road Race in Denmark, it makes you wonder why these titles are rewarded to individuals rather than teams. As Geraint says, Brad was delivered in cotton wool to the finishing line for most of the stages.

  • Comment number 10.

    Great blog. I'm really looking forward to reading some other posts as the Olympics gets nearer.

    Was watching some old tour stages from last year that i'd saved on my + box and came across the Tourmalet stage from last year in which you were awarded most aggressive rider of the day. Looking back at it now it makes me nearly as proud as i've ever been to be a British cyclist fan. Really gutsy performance on an iconic mountain.

    I know its slightly off topic but what are your reflections of the day? Do you look back at it even now a season later? How were you feeling on those descents when you nearly came off twice? You looked as nervous as any rider i've seen for 10-15 minutes! And finally how does a hard, long and lonely day like that prepare you for what is a much shorter, team event in the pursuit on the track?

  • Comment number 11.

    I think I must be the only person who isn't looking forward to the olympics. For most of us the games might as well be in Uganda, millions of people will only be able to watch it on the box, and i personally think the whole thing is over hyped for sponsership

  • Comment number 12.

    We going to do the slam Saturday G?

  • Comment number 13.

    You should have stayed and you should be at the Tour. A British rider winning the Tour, as Wiggins could well do, is worth any number of Olympic medals.

    You not being there lessens the chances of Brad winning, and that is bad for British Cycling.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think the GB riders compromise their prospects in the true cycling monuments (tour de france, etc) by allowing themselves to be coerced into track racing, olympics, etc. The british public still does not realise what is most important in cycling. Furthermore, the build-up to being a tour winner is a long term undertaking, I think a year out wont help Geraint, who showed real promise in the mountains last year.

  • Comment number 15.

    Congratulations, congratulations congratulations - We don't have enough praise for You, Brad,Cavendish and the rest of the team. You have all brought cycling right back where it belongs as one of the most exciting sports to watch and follow. Look how Brad and mark did their Olympic thing - it all ads up to building depth and strength which gets real results as proven by Bradley and Mark. The idea that Bradly was 'delivered in cotton wool' completely fails to understand the strength that is needed to win the Paris Niece and other top stage races - It looks to me like Team Sky could be the new 'Postal Bus'. Great blog - really - keep it going. As a cyclist I'd like to hear any tips on nutrition or training ideas. All the best for the Olympics - Don't forget to enjoy it!

  • Comment number 16.

    Great blog Geraint it's great To hear the inside story of road racing, almost as good as your videos on your web site, they really make me laugh (sorry if there not supposed to !!!)
    Good look on the track for the rest of the year

  • Comment number 17.

    Haha thanks Robbuck!! That does sound good!
    I guess it is an option for Brad. But no, it is not something we have thought about. We are concentrating on the squad we have at the moment. If Brad stepped up a few days before and was able to ride fast then I don't see why he couldn't ride. But I don't see it happening...

    Good point tiddler. We are all excited and can't wait to race out in Melbourne now. Should be good.

    wirral. Sorry I'm sure about the sprint events... But with the team pursuit, you couldn't have a 'ride off' as an individual pursuit is so different to a team pursuit. The coaches analyse all our data from the training sessions in the weeks up to the event. So whatever team that rides, we are confident is the best at that time. At the moment, selection is tight with all 6 of us in with a shout...

    Sebastian-Fetties-Teacher, Don't forget the Russians and Kiwis in there as well mate!! We aren't looking at anyone to be honest. We are just concentrating on our training and performances, that’s all we can control.

    BazOfTheBoleyn That is true but I guess it is the way it is. For us the cyclists it's normal, but it's the main thing that 'new' cyclists/fans struggled to understand.

    hairybearcub To be honest the only time I think about it is when people mention it. I still have fond memories of that day and always will. Was great to climb at the front of the tour, especially after my 2007 experience!! I took it steady down the descent I had the 'mishaps' on but after that, never really thought about it again...

    SuperLeeds i'm sure the Olympics isn't everybody’s cup of tea, but I remember watching them as a kid dreaming of being there one day. For us the athletes, it's about competing in the biggest sporting event in the world. The fact it is every 4 years and a multi-sport event makes it that extra special. All the sponsorship and 'hype' around it, isn't why we do it...

    pepelepew I think so!! I'll luckily enough be there as well so I hope so!! #keepthefaith

    honker/Greg Switzerland Brad has 3 gold medals, and limited amount of years left on the road. I have always loved the Olympics and there is nothing bigger than your home Olympics!! Team Sky is extremely strong and has plenty of riders who can support Brad. I don't think Brad winning or losing the Tour rests on my shoulders. I could ride my butt off for Brad and he could come 2nd, which would still be a phenomenal result, but the Olympics is down to me and my 3 team mates. What is important to you isn't necessarily the most important for me. Missing the tour this year won't effect my future chances. Look at how many Grand Tours Brad had done by the time he was 25...

    Thanks for all the encouragement and comments guys – means a lot!

 

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