Geraint Thomas believes the competition will be tougher than ever at this year’s Tour de France as he seeks to regain his title – his main target this year, alongside the road race and time trial shortly afterwards at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Welshman, winner of the Tour de France in 2018, finished runner-up to team-mate Egan Bernal last summer, and with Chris Froome also hoping to fully recover from the injury that kept him out of last year’s race, Team Ineos are unlikely to be short of options when the race starts in Nice.
Meanwhile, several other teams now possess genuine potential winners with the support riders to back them up, threatening the eight-year grip on the race of Team Sky and subsequently Team Ineos, only Vincenzo Nibali of Astana in 2014 breaking the monopoly on the yellow jersey that began with Sir Bradley Wiggins’ victory two years earlier.
“I'll have to be better and every year the standard goes up,” Thomas, whose season has just got under way at the Volta ao Algarve, a race he won in 2015 and 2016, told BBC Sport Wales.
“Early season races are so much quicker than they were even two years ago,” he said. “The whole peloton is training better and they are more professional, so I just need to keep working hard.”
He admits that he was not in peak condition when he came to last year’s Tour, which he partly attributed to the hangover – in a figurative sense – from his 2018 victory.
“There's nothing worse than being at a race when you're not quite fully at your best,” he explained. “Last year was the anomaly really. I've basically just got a lot more bike riding under my belt and a lot more training hours. I'm really happy with where I am.”
Thomas already has two Olympic gold medals in his trophy cabinet, won in the team pursuit at Beijing in 2008 and London four years later, but crashed late on in the road race at Rio 2016 when in contention for a podium place.
The 33-year-old, who in 2014 won the road race at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with a solo break that afforded him enough time to shrug off a late puncture, is aiming to ride both that event and the time trial at the Tokyo Olympics immediately after the Tour.
He said: “A medal in the road race or the time trial would be massive. To win another gold would just be incredible. The Olympics is what I grew up watching. It's the pinnacle of sport.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.