Geraint Thomas has shared with road.cc his views on some of the hottest current topics in cycling including disc brakes and therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs).
In the first part of a two-part interview, the 30-year-old, who was speaking by phone from the team’s training camp in Mallorca, the two-time Olympic champion and 2016 Paris-Nice winner also spoke about proposals to reduce the number of riders per team in major races, and shared his thoughts on Shane Sutton.
Tomorrow, Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford, among others, will appear before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee to answer questions on issues including the use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions that allow riders to race while taking medication that would otherwise be banned.
Following the Rio Olympic Games, medical records published by hackers who had accessed the World Anti-Doping Agency’s database showed that both Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins had been granted TUEs – in Wiggins’ case, because of allergies to pollen and grass, with the certificates issued ahead of the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France, and the 2013.
Thomas, who told us he’s never had a TUE himself, said the authorities “should do more to take out grey area.
“Brad ticked all the boxes,” he continued, “but the issue is how they dish them out, what’s involved.
“If someone has asthma and it reduces their performance by 8 per cent but they take a drug and it increases it by 12, how do you even measure that?
“It’s a hard one but at the end of the day you could just ban all that stuff anyway. If you’ve got asthma, go and work in an office or something,” he added.
With the UCI reintroducing its trial of disc brakes in the peloton after suspending it earlier this year on safety grounds, we asked Thomas his view of them.
“I think disc brakes are a big advantage now and help with braking especially when it’s wet on steep descents,” he said. “But there’s no point in rushing it into the peloton, some people are on it, some aren’t.”
Referring to the picture of Fran Ventoso’s injuries at Paris-Roubaix which the Movistar rider said had been caused by a disc brake during a crash, Thomas said: “Whether it was due to a disc or not, I think you’ve got to take safety first and make sure they’re not going to injure any riders unnecessarily.”
“Once you get that box ticked, I’d be all for it, but at the moment there’s no point trying to rush it into the peloton."
Another hot topic in the sport is the attempt by race organisers ASO, RCS and Flanders Classics to reduce the number of riders in teams in Grand Tours from nine to eight, and in other races from eight to seven.
The proposal, rejected by the UCI, was chiefly made on safety grounds. Thomas is broadly in favour.
“If they want to make it eight, that’s fine by me. But you can’t spring it on everyone a couple of months before the new season,” with teams already having finalised their 2017 rosters based on the current regulations.
“Twenty riders less in the field would make a difference and change the racing.
“But at the end of the day a lot of this comes down to how we race. The guy who just takes too many stupid risks, it’s going to be stupid crashes. will still cause crashes.
“There’s always going to be desperate people, especially in the big races. Coming into a bunch sprint in the Tour, if someone can win a stage it could change their life.”
Another reason behind the race organisers wanting fewer riders was to lessen the impact of certain teams having too much dominance – interpreted by many as a reference to the way Team Sky race the mountain stages at the Tour, setting a tempo at the front of the group that makes it difficult for rivals to attack.
Thomas doesn’t think that would make much difference, however. “If you took out Kiryienka, say you’d still have six climbers. It’s how we race, not the number of riders we have, or the cards we have to play.”
With the controversy over the allegations of sexual discrimination brought by Jess Varnish against former Great Britain Cycling Team technical director Shane Sutton still rumbling on, we asked Thomas for his views of the Australian.
Few have had as long a relationship with him as Thomas, dating back to when Sutton was a coach with Welsh Cycling, on through his spell with Great Britain on the track which brought him Olympic gold medals at Beijing and London, and with Team Sky.
“Speaking from personal experience, Shane is the key guy who got me where I am. He’s done so much for so many people.
“He’s not bipolar but he has characteristics. He can bite your head off one minute and save it the next.
“I’d back him any time. He’s done a hell of a lot of good,” Thomas added.
Geraint Thomas is the ambassador for bicycle insurance provider Protect Your Bubble
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Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.