While he’s still one of the main men at Ineos Grenadiers going into the 2021 season, Geraint Thomas has been expanding his horizons in recent years, and looking to use all his experience and success to inspire others. It’s resulted in the launch of the Geraint Thomas Cycling Club, which is G’s new mission to grow a community of cyclists worldwide. There’s also a weekly podcast alongside it, and the first episode went live today.
From his hotel room at an Ineos training camp in Gran Canaria, the 2018 Tour de France champ was going to speak to us about the Geraint Thomas Cycling Club (GTCC) and its accompanying podcast after training on Sunday… but some very stormy weather meant the team happened across the aftermath of a landslide on their ride, and had to make a two hour detour. Being a gent, G rearranged for the next day of course, and our conversation is below…
road.cc: Tell us all about the new podcast and club then
G: Basically I started in a cycling club, and Tom [Fordyce, the podcast's co-presenter] had the idea of a podcast that was taking you behind the scenes of the pro peloton. But then also the athlete side of things, and being a pure amateur like Tom and just doing it for the love of it. It's a bit of an online community almost, we've said that if you listen to one you're automatically a member whether you like it or not! It's a community for everyone: young, old, small, big, whatever. It's been really enjoyable doing it so far.
road.cc: Is this aimed more at cyclists who aren't already in clubs, or as a bonus community to be part of on top of a local club membership?
G: It's for both really. Cycling can be a bit snobby at times, and I think people new to the sport can find it hard to join a club. I haven't actually experienced it myself, but you kind of get that feeling that it [cycling clubs] can be like you're going into school and don't have the right trendy stuff, it's almost like that with a club sometimes. You can do the rides on Zwift, which will be suited to everyone, it won't be super fast or anything. And when it comes to the actual pod there will be a lot of talk around my own actual experiences, things I've done and my own stories and anecdotes. But there will also be a lot from Tom as well, the purist side of the sport. It's just for anyone really; if you ride your bike every day and are part of a club it's for you, and it's also for someone who isn't part of a club but just enjoys the sport. Maybe someone who doesn't even ride but is looking to get into cycling.
road.cc: With regards to this perception of real life cycling clubs being a bit daunting to get involved in, do you see this as an opportunity to attract more diversity to cycling?
G: Most definitely, it's open to anyone who has social media and can listen to the podcast. It's worldwide, especially with the Zwift group rides. You can be in Uzbekistan, Australia or wherever! I think that's what the last year has shown a lot of people. There's a lot of stuff you can do online and still get that community feel, which is helpful for everyone at the moment.
road.cc: Can you summarise some of the topics that you'll be discussing in the podcast?
G: Well every episode we have a guest on, and it will be a topic to do with cycling. There's one about wind with Luke Rowe, there's one about kit and for that we've got Sir Paul Smith on. There's a climbing episode with Richie Porte, team pursuit from the track with Ed Clancy. It's just a big mix to start with, and we'll also look to other sports people, even musicians. Just make it really broad really, basically for fans of the sport and people who like riding their bikes. Obviously Sir Paul doesn't race but loves riding his bike, so the guests are going to be very broad as well.
road.cc: Any other special guests or interesting themes coming up in future episodes?
G: One that sticks out is an episode on cafes, I can't remember their names right now [we later confirmed this was Vini and Bill, owners of Caffe Velo Verde in Screveton] they're definitely not celebrities but that was one of the best episodes we've done. We covered coffee culture which is obviously big in cycling, especially in the pro world. I was discussing with Tom that we definitely need a bit of a discussion about club houses, the members' favourite places to rock up for a coffee. We've also got Sir Chris Hoy on, Lizzie Deignan's also on the list. My wife also makes an appearance just to mix it up a bit!
road.cc: When the pandemic is finally over, could there be some Geraint Thomas Cycling Club events happening in real life?
G: Most definitely, if there's the want for it. Perhaps some physical rides, a talk or whatever really. It could go anywhere, it could grow into something really big where we end up doing rides all over the place, it might fall on its arse! I'd just ask people to shoot us some questions, make suggestions and get involved if there's anything you want to hear, guests who you'd like to appear or anything.
road.cc: Thanks for talking us through the podcast. Moving onto things in general, how has the pandemic impacted your training and racing?
G: Last year was... well I'd say tough, but not really compared to what a lot of other people have gone through. Obviously our training and racing was completely different, it did take a lot of adapting to and I learned a lot of lessons last year. In this third lockdown now, hopefully there's light at the end of the tunnel. But I've definitely learned some lessons that I'll take with me into this year. in a normal year you race and then get a forced rest, you think "I've raced now so I need some rest." Whereas in the lockdown you just keep training and neglect the rest almost, that's one of the biggest lessons I learned.
I suppose a lot changed but then a lot also didn't change. Our lives are basically riding our bikes, you get home and you eat, rest, sleep and repeat. It obviously is the same for everyone, the whole not seeing friends and family. In the off-season I'm used to going back to Cardiff, socialising and catching up which I couldn't do. It certainly affected us, but we've been very fortunate really when you consider the impact it's had on a lot of other people and their lives.
road.cc: How much of your training is indoors through winter?
G: Well I go back to the UK in October and the odd weekend here and there, but being based in the South of France I'm out chasing the sun most of the time. But I still use Zwift and turbo sessions occasionally, or if there's really bad weather. Or if I need to do a really specific TT session, or a short ride before breakfast. I'd say year-round, I still do indoor sessions at least a couple of times a week.
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road.cc: If you had a day off normal training to muck around on your bike, which bike type would it be and over what terrain?
G: Obviously gravel bikes are the new thing. And I'm so used to training on the road, so it's always nice to do something different. I would say mountain biking but I always tend to crash a lot, so I'd stick to fire roads which I think are a little bit easier! Then go up in the mountains and do a little bit of exploring off-road. I have a Pinarello gravel bike [the Grevil] which is really nice with disc brakes and everything. It looks smart as well.
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road.cc: What's your opinion on new and emerging tech on road bikes? Tubeless tyres, disc brakes etc?
G: With tubs [tubular tyres] I prefer racing on them, but definitely not for training for obvious reasons. If you puncture [on tubs] you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, and trying to change the tyre is a lot more tricky than just whipping an inner tube out.
With disc brakes, there's a big difference between racing and recreational, and there's a big difference between riding in the dry and the rain. I think racing in the dry they're both pretty similar, but having said that I admit I haven't ridden a disc brake bike too much. It's great that the technology with everything, with nutrition, with kit and clothing and on the bikes, electric gears... it's mad to think that only ten years ago electric gears came in and now it seems so old, seeing someone riding with cables. I'm certainly a fan of developing technology.
road.cc: I'm working from home in lockdown, and have an hour to train on my lunchbreak. What's the most effective session I can do in that time?
G: I think if you want to get fit, just a short interval session will be the best use of your time. But in the current situation just getting out and riding for 15 to 20 miles, cruising along the lanes just to clear your head in the fresh air. But if you want to get fitter, then finding a hill and doing a minute on, recover then a minute flat out for example. When you're limited for time that's going to be the most productive.
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road.cc: Can you be as productive outside as inside on the turbo?
G: Especially now if you're in all the time, I think getting out is just good mentally. With the fresh air, even if it's bad weather, raining and 3-4 degrees you go out and you smash it for 45 minutes or so. It might be grim at the time, but once you've had a shower and are warm again, you feel energised and there's no beating that. But at the same time, you can get a lot of really good work in on the turbo compared to outside.
road.cc: The first lockdown sparked a cycling boom in the UK, with bikes selling out left, right and centre. What do you think needs to be done to keep that momentum going?
I think just being more inclusive, new clubs starting, like the Geraint Thomas Cycling Club of course! I think another problem with cycling clubs can be that people think it has to be serious, but it can just be cycling with your mate down the road that you'd usually go to the pub with. Just head out for an hour on the bike, that's just as good for the mental side of things.
There's also traffic, if cities were a bit more bike-friendly it would help. Obviously I'm a professional that lives outside of the UK 11 months of the year, but I'd guess that it's the fear of riding in traffic that puts a lot of people off. There's a lot of parks and closed circuits out there, a lot more than people might think at first. So I'd just suggest people find local places you can go to ride, build up your confidence, even if you drive somewhere that's quiet to begin with. I think it's all about being inclusive, and getting rid of a bit of the snobbery that people might just assume and think is there, but generally isn't really.
The GTCC podcast can be downloaded on all major podcast platforms, including Spotify and iTunes, with episodes released every Tuesday. You can also head over to the GTCC Facebook group for more info.
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