Geraint Thomas says that Sky’s decision to end its decade-long sponsorship of Team Sky next season is “a huge opportunity” for the team “to start again. Meanwhile the Tour de France champion is also calling on fellow Arsenal fans to help him win tonight’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year to avoid the title going to Harry Kane of rival team Spurs.
“It wasn’t nice to hear,” Thomas told Telegraph Sport of this week’s shock news that the broadcaster was pulling the plug on the team that in the past seven years has dominated the Tour de France, with only then Astana rider Vincenzo Nibali able to break its stranglehold on the yellow jersey.
He and is fellow riders and team staff learned the news from Sir Dave Brailsford on Tuesday evening at their training camp in Mallorca, with the Welshman saying that the mood in the room “changed in an instant” as the team principal began to address them
“But you know, on reflection, I think it’s a huge opportunity for us,” he said. “To start again. We have a great package to sell. It's not second-hand flip flops that we're flogging here. These are some pretty decent trainers ...”
Reflecting on how his Tour de France victory has changed his life, he said: “I don’t feel I’m a Brad [Wiggins] or anything.
“You know, he was the first, and it the London 2012 Olympic year and he was so in the spotlight... plus, he definitely likes to be a bit rock and roll. He has that swagger, you know? Calling Sue Barker ‘Susan’ and all that. It’s mad that I’ve emulated him. I’ve won the Tour. But no, I don’t feel I’m a celebrity.”
There have been some weird sides to his new-found fame, however. Thomas said: “I don’t mind it when people come up to me and say ‘Well done’. That’s lovely. The bit that’s weird is stuff like… I’ve had a load off eBay people hounding me. Just sort of getting you to sign stuff which they can then sell. Like, they turned up at the homecoming [parade in Cardiff after the Tour]. I signed a few but he kept coming back and the security was trying to get him to leave and he wouldn’t go away.
“Then he turned up at the Arsenal game on the opening day of the season, with about seven or eight of his mates. I signed a couple and said ‘that’s it, I’m not doing any more’. But they wouldn’t leave me and Sa [Thomas’s wife] alone. She was getting annoyed. And then afterwards it was like ‘How did they even know we were going to be there?’. You start getting a bit paranoid …”
The Team Sky rider, who was presented to fans at the Emirates ahead of Arsenal’s opening match of the season and is regularly featured in the Gunners’ matchday magazine, told Telegraph Sport: “I’m a massive Arsenal fan, so I’m hoping for their support.
“I think having Wales’ support would be big, though. Obviously if I’m the only cyclist, that could help as well – hopefully. Then, as I say, I’ll try to get Arsenal’s support up against Kane!”
Regarding the prospect of winning the title, he said: “I’m not going to lie. It would be incredible. It’s one of those things, even as a kid at Christmas time, it’s the one thing you always made sure to watch. You see the names on there and just being amongst them would be amazing.”
BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2018 will be broadcast live from Birmingham on BBC1 at 7pm this evening.
If Thomas were to win, he would be the fifth cyclist to win the title following the late Tom Simpson in 1965, Sir Chris Hoy in 2008, Mark Cavendish in 2011 and Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2012.
Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that from January, in a column in monthly men’s magazine GQ GQ Thomas “will be providing cycling advice, expertise and opinion – from the best cycling gear to the ideal cycling techniques to his views on the biggest cycling stories of the day.”
The 32-year-old said: “I’m really excited to be joining the team at GQ. It’s a magazine I’ve always read and admired so it’s pretty amazing for me to now be writing for it.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.