Geraint Thomas can win a Grand Tour says Shane Sutton

Welshman seen as future Sky leader, tipped for road nats; Thomas reflects on Paris-Nice

by Elliot Johnston   March 20, 2014  

Geraint Thomas flies the British flag in the capital (copyright Simon MacMichael)

British Cycling coach Shane Sutton believes Team Sky's Geraint Thomas is capable of winning a Grand Tour in the future. He also said that the 28-year-old should not consider moving to another squad, saying that "Sky will be Geraint Thomas’ team."

Thomas, twice Olympic team pursuit gold medalist, said earlier this month that he saw his future in stage racing rather than the Classics. 

Last week, he demonstrated his capability as team leader at Paris-Nice, which he led for two days and lay second overall, still in contention for the victory, before crashing out on the penultimate day of racing.

He has written of the physical and mental pain the crash caused him in his BBC Sport column, but should take strength from Sutton’s encouraging assessment of his future.

In an interview on Wales Online, Sutton, who has worked closely with Thomas as part of the British Cycling set-up and also while head coach at Sky until January last year, says his Grand Tour hopes for the rider are echoed by team principal Sir Dave Brailsford.

“Dave and I talked about it three days ago,” Sutton said.

“Him and I know Geraint can win a Grand Tour. Geraint and Peter Kennaugh are probably two of the most exciting British riders when it comes to Tour potential and fortunately one of them (Thomas) is our’s here in Wales.

“The only difference between Peter and Geraint is that G can time-trial better and push his way through air.

“He had a chance to lead Sky at Paris-Nice, one of the most iconic races in the world, and proved his ability.

“He was going to podium and I reckon he would have got, on the stage in which he crashed, the bonus seconds in the sprint he needed to have been back in yellow."

Sutton didn't express a timescale on his prediction that Thomas would lead Team Sky at a Grand Tour. He did, however, note that the supporting role the Welshman will play to Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins in the coming year will be important in his development.

He said: “Geraint understands the work ethic and how to win it while getting drink bottles for ‘Froomey’,  but he’s got to learn to lead the team in a Grand Tour, whether it’s the Tour de France, Giro D’Italia or Vuelta Espana.

“Froomey learnt from Brad by following him around France for three weeks in 2012.

“G needs to learn from both of them what it takes.

“Geraint is solid, sustainable and also has flair. He can make the move when he wants.”

Sutton notes that at the age of 28, Thomas may not be satisfied with a supporting role in the coming years, but says that Sky is the place for the Welshman to achieve his goals.

“G has thought about his options,” Sutton said. “The long and short of it is Sky will be Geraint Thomas’ team.

“Froomey has got his day and it’s going to be G’s day after him ... British team, British leader!”

Sutton says he believes Thomas can regain the national road champion's jersey in June's National Road Championships in Monmouthshire. The Welshman won the title in June 2010.

It was while wearing the national champion's jersey less than a fortnight later that Thomas secured his highest ever placing on a Tour de France stage.

He came second to Thor Hushovd on Stage 3, which took in some of the pavé sectors used in Paris-Roubaix and putting him into the best young rider's jersey.

“All the top riders will be at their best because the Tour de France starts in Yorkshire the following weekend,” said Sutton.

“It’s a given G will be in the mix.

“He’s on home roads and that champions’ jersey, which he had before, means a lot to him.

He also thinks Thomas can win the time trial, saying: “Both courses are tough but made for Geraint.

“He will throw himself into it and is prepared to take risks on the corners, which might be the difference in the time-trial against Brad, Froomey, Alex Dowsett and Stannard.

“I’m backing G to do the double, which would be a pretty rare feat, done I believe only by Millar back in 2007 and at the home of cycling, Monmouthshire.”

In his column on the BBC Sport website Thomas wrote of his disappointment after crashing out of Paris-Nice.

However, he did note that he was happy with his performance up until that point, and could take plenty of positives away from the performance.

The Sky rider described the fall which saw him land underneath a crash barrier as “not ideal”.

He wrote: “All that was going through my head when I was on the side of the road was that my race was over and my fight for general classification victory was done. I knew it straight away, so the disappointment was instant.

“My back was the worst bit, because I slid quite a distance on it. So I have quite a bit of road rash because, as well as ripping my jersey to shreds, it took a lot of skin off.

“And then I had a chunk out of my hip as well so I had to have some stitches put in that once I got back to the hotel. I am pretty bruised and quite sore at the moment.”

But in terms of recovery, Thomas is confident that the crash will not affect his season.

“We made the decision to pull out, and not to ride on the last day of Paris-Nice on Sunday,” Thomas wrote.

“Instead I went home and used it as an extra day to recover and heal up and get ready for the Spring one-day classics season, which starts with the famous Milan-San Remo race this weekend.

“If I had raced on Sunday, it would have just prolonged the time I took to get fully fit.”

Thomas had set out at Paris-Nice with a point to prove to himself, and to everyone else, that he could be a contender in big stage races.

“I was confident I could do the job but it is one thing thinking that I could get a result and another thing actually going out there and doing it.

“I think I proved to myself and a lot of other people what I could do.

“I said in my last column that this season is a big one for me to decide my direction as a rider and the Paris-Nice race has definitely given me that incentive to really press on and focus on being the man going for the general classification wins in major stage races.”

15 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Certainly felt it on his back! This is G when we saw him getting on the bus at Sophia Antipolis

photo.JPG

posted by simoncon [52 posts]
20th March 2014 - 13:25

22 Likes

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I'd be made up to see Geraint win a GT!

Geraint and then one day soon maybe Pete K Big Grin :D Big Grin

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
20th March 2014 - 13:30

19 Likes

How old is Froome? About the same? Sky aren't going to back unproven G when they've proven winner Froome in place imo.

I'd love G - and therefore Wales - to win it mind!

posted by bikerdavecycling [71 posts]
20th March 2014 - 15:17

20 Likes

bikerdavecycling wrote:
How old is Froome? About the same? Sky aren't going to back unproven G when they've proven winner Froome in place imo.

There are 3 Grand Tours a year, so if Sky have ambitions to compete in more than one they need to back more than one genuine GC contender. While he may not be favourite, you would say that Porte is a genuine Giro contender. Thomas may or not follow Froome as leader for the TdF, but I certainly can see him as a leader in a Grand Tour.

Ride more, ride better

posted by Sniffer [143 posts]
20th March 2014 - 15:17

16 Likes

bikerdavecycling wrote:
How old is Froome? About the same? Sky aren't going to back unproven G when they've proven winner Froome in place imo.

I'd love G - and therefore Wales - to win it mind!

Yeah, but Froome can't race 3 GTs every year... Hopefully Thomas will get his chance

Asolare

posted by Goldfever4 [170 posts]
20th March 2014 - 15:18

20 Likes

I find it hard to imagine him riding for one day let alone three weeks, without falling off..

posted by brackley88 [80 posts]
20th March 2014 - 15:36

19 Likes

If G can improve his descending (it always seems to be downhill he crashes) then he could well be a contender. It would be great to see him get it right some time. He does seem to have the talent and dedication.

posted by racingcondor [122 posts]
20th March 2014 - 17:30

13 Likes

To be fair to G he is an all rounder. He is not limited to downhill crashes. He's been doing it on the track for years and now he's successfully transferred that to the road. He can crash on the flat (last years milan San remo) and on slight up hills (last years tour of Flanders). Wink

More seriously I thought he was made for the classics and its a shame his heart isn't in it.

posted by eddie11 [83 posts]
20th March 2014 - 18:13

15 Likes

One word:- No.

Thomas has great potential, but he's getting older without ever being given a chance to really fulfill it (ok, this lucky break at P-N aside). If he really had GT potential, wouldn't we have seen signs of it by now? Porte is developing into a GT contender, but he's been doing that for a few years now. I love G, but I really can't see him as a GT contender.

Rob Simmonds's picture

posted by Rob Simmonds [253 posts]
20th March 2014 - 18:36

18 Likes

I suggest a few trackdays on a Honda Fireblade and a few weeks training camp with Anne-Caro Chausson or Steve Peat or some such.

If it doesn't teach him about grip and fast descending then at least it'd teach him that falling off hurts.

I jest - is it 5 gold medals he's got from olympics and WCs?

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
20th March 2014 - 21:09

12 Likes

I think Kennaugh is a better GC contender for the future, he's younger and hence will not clash with the age of Chris Froome, he's a better climber than Thomas and he has more years to peak

posted by willjeffcott [8 posts]
20th March 2014 - 21:23

13 Likes

brackley88 wrote:
I find it hard to imagine him riding for one day let alone three weeks, without falling off..

Yepp, I agree with that. Also, I have yet to watch a race where GT put in the same kind of performance as Froome at planche des belles filles in 2012, Contrador in the recent Tirrano-Adriatico, Nibali on Tre Cime di Lavaredo in 2013, .etc

Yes, GT is good and British...but I don't think he has got 'it'.

Bobbinogs's picture

posted by Bobbinogs [68 posts]
20th March 2014 - 21:26

13 Likes

I've been saying this for years. Geraint is one of the most experienced Grand Tour riders in the peloton.

How about Sky going for winning all three GTs with three different riders? Big Grin

Grizzerly

posted by Grizzerly [147 posts]
20th March 2014 - 21:26

9 Likes

Well I had doubts but when is Shane wrong? Damn shame about the Paris-Nice crash. I was looking forward to Sky winning 3 in a row with different riders.

posted by SteppenHerring [230 posts]
20th March 2014 - 22:32

12 Likes

It would have to be a relatively flat GT, or perhaps Sky are taking 'marginal gains' to the next level!

posted by daddyELVIS [453 posts]
27th March 2014 - 7:07

2 Likes