FILE PHOTO: Cycling – Tour de France – Stage 20 – Libourne to Saint-Emilion – France – July 17, 2021 Ineos Grenadiers rider Geraint Thomas of Britain in action during stage 20 REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
July 22, 2021
By Martyn Herman
TOKYO (Reuters) – Geraint Thomas has achieved pretty much everything in his illustrious career with a Tour de France title, rainbow jerseys and two Olympic track gold medals in his locker.
But the Welshman wants a first Olympic road medal and will get two chances in the next week, first in Saturday’s road race, then again next Wednesday in the time trial.
The 35-year-old was vying for gold in the road race in Rio five years ago but crashed into a ditch on a treacherous high-speed descent with 10km remaining, eventually finishing 11th.
Thomas is no stranger to crashes and dislocated his shoulder in this year’s Tour de France but continued on to finish 42nd.
He hopes his luck may change this year on what is a formidable course on the flanks of Mount Fuji.
“I was there in the mix in Rio and then unfortunately crashed on the last corner of the descent and that put me out of it,” Thomas, who also took part in the time trial in Rio, told reporters. “Hopefully it is third time lucky.
“I don’t lose sleep over it now but it’s still one of those things where it was there for the taking almost. A great opportunity. But that is the way it goes.
“(Psychologist) Steve Peters was always telling me, life is not fair, you don’t always get what you deserve at that moment. It just happened and it was super frustrating. Obviously I’d love to put that right here on Saturday.”
The 234-km course featuring 4,800m of ascent will not intimidate 2018 Tour de France winner Thomas.
And with 2020 Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart and 2018 Vuelta de Espana winner Simon Yates and his twin brother Adam for company, Thomas has a team to envy in his gold-medal bid.
“If we race well as a team, we have a great opportunity here,” Thomas said. “Four really good chances of a medal.
“As long as we communicate well and race well, we will be in with a chance.”
While having four riders each capable of taking the gold medal looks to be a boost for the British contingent, it could also pose a problem in terms of hierarchy.
Usually a nation will have one, possibly two, main riders with others working selflessly for the cause.
But Thomas does not see that as being a complication.
“We have all had slightly different prep, but once we get out there the main thing is there are no egos,” he said. “We communicate with each other, we have our plan, and try to execute it as best as we can.
“With so small teams, with so little control, a lot can happen, a lot can go right, a lot can go wrong. Just get out there and do our best.”
Thomas won team pursuit gold on the track in Beijing and London before switching his focus to the road.
The Olympics remains a great motivator, however, even if this year’s edition in Tokyo has been especially complicated by a short turnaround time after the Tour and by the COVID-19 restrictions in place in Japan.
“I remember watching Barcelona 1992 mesmerised at home with my mum and dad,” he said. “So to represent my country is a huge honour, and I just want to do the best I can and hopefully win a medal, win a gold. But it’s easier said than done, isn’t it?”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)