2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas has confirmed that he will miss next year’s edition of the Grande Boucle, citing the “extreme” lack of time trialling in the 2023 Tour route as one of the key factors behind his decision.
Despite finishing an impressive third at the Tour this year, Ineos Grenadiers rider Thomas says he will focus on a return to the Giro d’Italia in 2023, where the Welshman has unfinished business after two freak crashes spoiled his previous overall bids at the Cora Rosa.
The 2023 Giro, notably, also features three individual time trials totalling 71 kilometres, as race organisers RCS Sport seem intent on wooing world champion, Vuelta a España winner, and consummate time triallist Remco Evenepoel, whose previous sole appearance at the Giro in 2021 marked what was a much-anticipated but ultimately patchy and ill-fated return to the peloton after a lengthy injury lay-off.
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Meanwhile, next year’s Tour – the route of which was revealed in Paris at the end of October – is distinctly one for the pure climbers, with a hilly 22km final week time trial in the Alps the only bone thrown by organisers ASO to the bulkier rouleurs like Thomas.
Speaking to Cyclingnews at the ASO-organised Saitama Criterium in Japan – where he ‘sprinted’ to third behind Jasper Philipsen and 2022 Tour winner Jonas Vingegaard earlier today – Thomas expressed his disappointment at the lack of action against the clock next July.
“I’m not too sure why they’ve done that,” he said. “When I did my first Tour in 2007 – okay, it was a long time ago – it had two TTs of 50km plus, so it’s quite extreme to go the other way like that.
“Those TT days are big iconic stages as well. This year there were only three big bunch sprints, which are iconic stages as well. Maybe they’re just trying to mix it up completely. I think it’s disappointing there’s not more [time trialling].”
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However, Thomas – who has occupied every step of the Tour de France podium during his career – also suggested that he was planning on heading to Italy in May 2023 regardless of next year’s grand tour routes.
And while he remains tight-lipped about whether he will aim for the final pink jersey in Rome, the 36-year-old Welshman certainly has unfinished business at the Giro, where his two previous GC bids in 2017 and 2020 were both abruptly curtailed by freak crashes involving race motorbikes and stray water bottles.
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“That’s what I was thinking anyway,” Thomas said when asked if the Italian grand tour was pencilled into his diary all along. “The Giro is a lot less intense, just the atmosphere and everything. I’d like to ride it another time.
“It’s a race I’ve always enjoyed, even if I’ve crashed out the last two times I’ve done it. It would be nice to go back and finish it. There is a bit of [what might have been]. In 2020 I felt in really good shape. Even the one before that with the motorbike parked on the road... I really would have loved to have seen how I’d have done.
“How I treat it would just be to get to the Giro as best I can. Whether that ends up being going for stages or riding GC, that’s a different matter. But I’d really like to do the Giro.
“It’ll be similar to the Tour this year – just get there in the best shape and go from there.”
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Surely, that should be: They would have.