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Welshman was late call-up to Team Sky squad, but crashes threw race plan out of the window

Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas has been reflecting on his first participation in Milan-San Remo at the weekend, a race that showed that even the most meticulous plans can go awry due to racing incidents on the road as a series of crashes two thirds of the way through the 298km race split the field and paved the way for Matt Goss’s victory.

The Welshman was a late call-up to the British ProTeam’s squad, replacing Michael Barry, and was brought into the line-up after a great performance in Paris-Nice, including helping set up a stage win for Greg Henderson.

“I got the call up for Milan-San Remo Monday night after Paris Nice. It was a nice feeling to know the team were really happy with my form and so putting me into one of the biggest one-day races of the year. Kilometre wise it certainly is, being nearly 300km in length!”

Thomas confesses that the length of time he’d be spending in the saddle didn’t really register with him until the team briefing on the eve of the race.

The distance, he said, “didn't really play on my mind, but it did 'hit me' when we got our schedule – a sheet at dinner with timings for the next day. It also has the race distance and feed zones, etc, and this is when I saw we had two feed zones at 135km and 224km!”

The evening before the race, the Team Sky riders and management also ran through the tactics for the following day, as Thomas explains.

“Eddie [Boasson Hagan] was to be the sole leader. [Ian] Stannard and Kurt [Arvesen] were to watch for any big groups going clear early on, then to do bottle runs, take kit back and keep us out of the wind, etc. It was up to the other guys to get Eddie to the finish spending as little energy as possible.

“At the same time they were to push the pace if needed on the Cipressa and Poggio to get rid of some sprinters. It was down to me to be with Eddie during the final part of the race and lead him out at the finish. Well that was the plan anyway...

“As you probably know, it didn't really pan out like that... With 100km to go the race split on the wet and very slippery decent of Le Manie. I was caught up in the crash at the bottom of the climb so was at the back of the bunch on the descent.

“Before we knew it the group of 40 or so guys had two minutes. This meant the race ended up being a bit of an anticlimax. The situation wasn't a disaster for us, as we had Eddie up there, so we just had to sit back and be ready to go if the group was brought back.”

Team Sky did come to the front of the chasing pack on the Cipressa, but in the end it was only Lampre-ISD’s Michele Scarponi who managed to bridge across to the lead group, leaving Boasson Hagen isolated and, ultimately, out of contention as eight other riders fought for the win after the descent of the Poggio.

“In the finale Eddie didn't quite have the legs so we didn't get the result we had hoped but it was still great to finish the race. I know the roads now and what to expect in the future. It's a great race, packed full of history and tradition. I can't wait for next year!”

Thomas, of course, is our resident expert for our season-long Fantasy Cycling game, and we’ll be bringing you his thoughts on this weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem very soon.

In the meantime, you can keep up with the latest new on Thomas through his website, and also join the British road and Olympic team pursuit champion for a training camp at the Bluestone resort in Pembrokeshire.
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.