Geraint Thomas: Don’t be the first loser

by John Eustice

Carcassone at the Tour de France

Translation from Liberation

Note: This is n French newspaper that combines aspects of The New Yorker and Rolling Stone

Geraint Thomas: Don’t be the first loser

When the medics bent over the racer, worried that he’d hit his head, they asked him what his name was. And Geraint Thomas replied: “Chris Froome.” A few minutes earlier, during 16th stage of the 2015 Tour, the Welshman had crashed on the descent of the col de Manse, hitting a pole. The next day, continuing the joke he tweeted: “I just saw a guy walking around in my yellow jersey holding my pregnant wife’s hand.” It was Froome of course, on his way to win the Tour and about to become a father. Thomas loved the fun of pretending to be him.

LESS OF A CROOK THAN THE OTHERS

Three years later, the teammate has taken the jersey from his leader – but not yet his wife. He’s lead the Tour since the stage of la Rosière, in the Alps, and has accumulated all of the pomp and advantage that goes along with it: body guards, his spare bike mounted in the forward-right position on the team car roof where it’s the quickest to grab in case of need. A bit of glory through the whistles of a hateful public. Thomas is paying for Froome, who was cleared after a suspect salbutamol control last year. The public says: another Sky. Yet another fabricated champion. One who has gone from next-to-last in his first Tour in 2007 ( 3 h 46’ 51” behind Alberto Contador) to a possible Tour winner. Another track rider transformed into a mountain climber, the same conversion that Bradley Wiggins achieved in 2012, the first Sky to win the Tour, while Chris Froome, in turn, has always avoided the track. All of this seems injust towards Thomas. If Thomas took time to arrive as a road riders, it was by obligation to the Queen of England: he won two Olympic medals as a Team Pursuiter, 2008 and 2012. On paper, Geraint Thomas comes off as much less suspicious than the others.

June 2006: we saw him win la Flèche du Sud, in a warm rain through the hills of Luxembourg, with almost no teammates, laughing on the podium as the speaker massacred his name” “Thomas, Geraint…Graint Thomas…Grant…” He already had his sparkling eyes, always ready for a joke and some relaxed time, all with his long hair that had to be incredibly uncomfortable under his helmet in the summer sun. The next year he turned pro and went to Barloworld. Engaged in order to satisfy the American (?) sponsor who wanted to enter the UK market. In reality, the British Cycling Federation was paying various pro teams on the side to build up a contingent of riders, giving them time to reassemble the diapora and launch Team Sky in 2010, their defacto national team.

TAKING OFF HIS UNDERWEAR

“I’ve never seen a more relaxed guy, no pressure before the start or after the finish,” said Patrick Calcagni, a former Swiss teammate.  “A true comedian,” remembered Claudio Corti, Barloworld manager at the time. Thomas’s official biography, The World of Cycling According to G, is full of his dry humor, like the underwear story that starts the book off: “Racing cyclists never wear underwear, least of all when they ride their bicycles.”

Thomas put on racing shorts for the first time when 12, at the Maindy Mini League, the name of a popular neighborhood in Cardiff in Wales, where he grew up. He began with Rugby. Cycling taught him to take off his underwear and shave his legs.

“Thomas is very well liked at home,” relates his biographer, Tom Fordyce. “He comes from a working class environment and keeps his home in Cardiff as well as the Monaco apartment. He started racing on local cement velodrome, putting jam sandwiches in his back pockets and riding for hours having fun with his friends.”

Those who knew him as a young man still think of Thomas as that same, self-effacing modest guy: that’s false. Monday, on the rest day in Carcassonne, he was seated next to Chris Froome, facing 200 journalists under a Plexiglas pergola, the smell of lavender tickling everyone’s noses while he told us that his leader, actually second on the classification, would soon be ready to take the jersey back for good. Froome drank his café au lait, looking happy with him. Thomas had a cold, distant gaze. Like that of a hood, getting ready to crush a dream, steal all the furniture and the family car as well.

Correction: Phil Liggett kindly wrote me back after yesterday’s post about Reginal Harris: “Reg would have been delighted that you knighted him, too, as he only got the OBE. Certainly in the present climate he would have been.”

Thank you Phil, from all of us.


John EusticeJohn Eustice, is the organizer of the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a long-time cycling analyst who has contributed to ESPN, ABC Sports, Time Magazine, and CNN among others. The Bucks County native resides in New York City. He was a pioneer on the European racing circuit and is a two-time United States Professional Champion.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*