Despite winning a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Welshman Geraint Thomas has yet to achieve the same level of fame as Team GB team-mates like Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Bradley Wiggins.
But that could soon all change following his signing to the high-profile new Team Sky, Britain’s first Pro Tour road racing squad.
BikeRadar spoke to the multiple track world champion about the new team and how he believes it can be the best in the world and match the heroics of Britain’s Olympic track stars.
Sky’s the limit
Cardiff-born Thomas finished the Tour de France on his debut two years ago and, after a ‘stop-start’ 2009 – he suffered lack of form through overtraining in the spring and then had a hand operation after crashing – was in fine form ahead of this week’s Tour of Britain. He leaves Barloworld when his contract expires on December 31.
The 23-year-old is one of 16 riders confirmed for Team Sky. Speculation surrounds future signings, with Wiggins – who came fourth in this year’s Tour de France and was part of Thomas’s gold medal winning pursuit team at the Olympics – hotly tipped for a place, although this is something Wiggins’ team boss at Garmin-Slipstream, Jonathan Vaughters, has repeatedly denied.
Thomas celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men’s team pursuit at the 2008 Olympics
As it stands, the squad is already a formidable force, with Thomas joining six fellow Brits: Tour of Ireland and former British national road race champion Russell Downing, current Barloworld team-mates Chris Froome and Stephen Cummings, reigning British road under-23 champion Peter Kennaugh and Giro d’Italia rider Ian Stannard.
Other signings are Gent-Wevelgem winner Edvald Boasson Hagen, Thomas Lövkvist, Kurt Asle Arvesen, Simon Gerrans, Juan Antonio, Flecha, Kjell Calström, John Lee Augustyn, Greg Henderson, Las Petter Nordhaug and Morris Possoni.
Team Sky are led by team principal Dave Brailsford, who is also high performance manager for British Cycling, and senior sports director Scott Sunderland, and coached by Rod Ellingworth, head coach of the national road team.
They had their first unofficial ‘camp’ in Wales in June over the weekend of the National Championships in Abergavenny.
Now it is official, and Thomas said it was an honour to join the new squad. He predicted it would put British road racing on the world map.
“It’s massive because they haven’t just signed anybody, any foreign rider who is looking for a team to ride for,” he said. “They’ve gone for top British riders. They obviously have a lot of money and it’s going to be an incredible team, so just to be part of that is great.”
Thomas hopes to inspire a future generation of riders, like Chris Boardman inspired him
Best in the world
“This all started with Chris Boardman when he won the Olympics back in 1992 and did well now and again in the Tour [de France],” said Thomas.
“Through the years, it’s just got better and better so that now Cav [Mark Cavendish] is winning Tour stages left, right and centre and Brad [Wiggins] finished fourth this year.
“The structure for this has been in place for eight years and now we will be seeing the fruits of the labour. It took a long time to get to where we are at the moment on the track but, if we can transfer that to the road, then I don’t see why British cycling can’t be the best in the world.
“To have the British cycling team riding in the Tour would be amazing. I’m sure it will just give the young riders the belief that they can achieve the same as us, just like Cav and I saw Boardman doing his bit all those years ago and became inspired.”
Thomas added: “It will give everyone that belief. For sure, it will be one of the top teams in the world and will definitely boost cycling in the UK.”
Ed Clancy, Paul Manning, Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins at the Beijing Olympics