Geraint Thomas: Ineos Grenadiers considered me ‘Sepp Kuss’ housemaid’ before the Tour de France


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ROCAMADOOUR, France (VN) – Geraint Thomas isn’t the type of character to turn around and say, “I told you so,” and what’s the point?

He has let his feet and podium place in Paris speak for himself when it comes to answering some of the questions and doubts his own team had at the end of last season.

A little less than twelve months ago, the Ineos Grenadiers felt that Thomas was no longer capable of competing for big tour honors.

Lots of new signings and Egan Bernal were to be the leaders for the coming years, and Thomas was to play the role of a wise old teammate and super home person when he was called to the mountains.

To give credit to Ineos, he looked at Thomas’ recent back catalog of 2020 and 2021 three-week race results, and with Tadej Pogacar (Team Emirates UAE) and Jonas Wingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) upping the standard, it was fair. for Ineos to consider where and how she could bridge the gap.

It turned out that the team’s best response was a 36-year-old athlete, whom they considered nothing more than a mountain fan.

Cycling has a funny ability to flip the script. When Egan Bernal crashed and wrote off his season, Dani Martinez and Adam Yates called to fill the void.

Thomas was still not guaranteed a place on the tour, despite the fact that neither Martinez nor Yates finished on the podium on the big tour, but as spring turned into early summer, Thomas kept his head down and his adviser was by his side.

His wife told him back in November 2021 that he would come out of the Tour on the podium and while Ineos had doubts about his ability to reach those heights, the Welshman huddled and prepared as if he were going to the Tour as a possible contender.

Martinez then fell off the rails at the Tour de Suisse, a race Thomas won and then Yates contracted COVID. Even as the Tour approaches, Thomas – the rider who was leading at the start of Suisse – did not get the full lead.

Four weeks later, Thomas was on the podium for the third time in his career in Paris. He didn’t really bother either Wingegor or Pogacar, but the “best of the rest” was enough to secure a well-deserved third place overall.

“I think in their imagination they saw me more as Sepp Kuss, a servant in the mountains, and not there all the time,” Thomas said when asked what Ineos thought of him at the end of last season and in the early stages of the season. this year.

“That changed a bit after Suisse. I’m just really happy to be there in the mix.”

“I knew I could still be good”

The motivation came from a desire to prove that, at the age of 36, he can still mix it up with the best. Thomas and team boss Rod Ellingworth sat down at the Welshman’s house over the winter, and Thomas explained what he wanted: to significantly adjust his program to match the Tour, to be in the best shape possible.

“It’s just my type of character. You don’t give up just because someone tells you that you can’t do something. I knew deep down that I could still be good and just wanted to come here in the best possible shape,” he said after stage 20 of the Tour.

“Even if it meant being like Zepp and super-riding in the mountains and switching to other days, or if it meant where I was on the podium, I just wanted to give myself a better chance.”

Thomas was not the only favorite for the British team in this year’s race. Tom Pidcock has won at L’Alpe d’Huez on his debut and the team heads to Paris to collect the team standings.

There is a huge gulf between Ineos, Jumbo-Visma and Team Emirates, the two teams that controlled the entire GC battle during the Tour de France.

Thomas has never been truly in the fight for the yellow and finishes the race eight minutes behind the yellow Wingegaard and at some point in the next year or two the team will need to either invest in or develop talent that can challenge the Tour again.

Thomas was asked how Ineos can close the gap to Pogacar and Vingegaard in the future and while the British team remains hopeful that Bernal will return to its former glory, it’s unclear if even that will be enough to end the Tour’s brief but noteworthy drought. commands.

“Anyway, next year could be my last, so I don’t care, I’ll take a look,” Thomas joked.

“It’s hard. These two are just incredible. Tom Pidcock certainly has a great future, but it’s one thing to ride the way he is, and another to win. But why not? The team will definitely support him, but in the shorter term, who are you signing? These two are outstanding guys.

“The best way we got here is with a strong squad. If you have three really good guys it can be but Jumbo is so strong UAE you say they were weak but that day Bjerg and McNulty… jumpers.

“We’ve definitely cut back on our work, but it’s a challenge and it’s what makes you get out of bed in the morning. It will motivate us and I will do everything in my power to help, whether I work for another year or two. We can definitely do it, we just have to cut back on our work.”

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