Geraint Thomas says he was aware that Chris Froome was a ‘phenomenal’ athlete when the pair first rode together for Barloworld in 2008, but he also remembers him as an erratic rider you wouldn’t want to find yourself behind because, “anything could happen at any moment.”
Speaking on Superbike racer Eugene Laverty's PrePro Podcast, Thomas recalls meeting Froome for the first time in 2008 when the two men rode for Barloworld.
He remembers walking into his room, “and he had – I can’t remember – is it a sarong is it called? It’s basically like some Kenyan skirt thing, and it’s like a kilt, you know, and you’ve got no- you've got nothing on underneath.
“And he was just there with his legs open, and I was, like, 'Mate, you're airing that out. You’re not leaving anything to the imagination here.'
“That was my first impression of him and I was just thinking, ‘Who is this guy?’”
Froome’s results were famously unremarkable before his breakthrough second place at the 2011 Vuelta a Espana, but Thomas remembers being impressed with his team-mate’s ability long before then.
He says the two didn’t race alongside each other much at Barloworld, “but when I did, you could see he was a phenomenal athlete.
“But then it was just like having a superfast [motor]bike and putting me on it. Just so much power, but no control. And he’d be off the road. He didn’t crash a lot, but you’d be riding behind him and anything could happen at any moment.
“Just this raw talent basically, and he didn’t grow up like us in the UK, or in Central Europe, where you’re immersed in cycling or it’s always on the TV, you know Eurosport and stuff. So he didn’t really know the history of it.
“It was just like he’d been made in a lab almost and he was just built for riding a bike, for endurance sport, but just had no preconceived ideas. He just sort of did it.
“There’s so many stories of things he would do with the team. He would pull out of a race early because he had to ride 50km home. And just really random stuff, like it was really hot and he was about to do a TT, so he wanted to cut– he had a long sleeve skin suit and he wanted to make it into a short sleeve, and it was like he didn’t have any sleeves at the end and he was going to go out racing like that.
“It was just like random stuff he’d do, but you could tell straight away he was a good rider.”
Thomas also talks at length about his own career and his belief that, "Just because you can ride a bike fast, doesn't mean you can walk down the street and you're better than the next guy.”
He says that, “some people turn into a bit of a diva when they win some big races,” but says he has tried to keep his feet on the ground.
This currently involves helping look after his five-week old son. "I'm not racing again until February, so if I pull my weight now, I've got time in the bank then when the season starts and I go away for four months."
He says of his own attitude: "When you get on the bike, it's completely different. Okay, you still don't ride like an idiot and chop people up, but you are a lot more determined and focused, and everything.
"But off the bike, you're off the bike, then, aren't you? You’re not racing and don't have to be aggressive, and you can just chill, and just be normal and polite. At the end of the day, it's just a sport, isn't it?"