'I can see the end' - veteran Thomas eyes Giro glory

Geraint Thomas
Geraint Thomas won two Olympic gold medals on the track before focusing on road racing [Getty Images]

Geraint Thomas is in race mode. And this close to the start of the Giro d’Italia, race mode means rest mode.

The former Tour de France champion reclines on his hotel bed in Turin for a Zoom call, decked out in his Ineos Grenadiers training gear but careful not to exert any unnecessary energy. His voice is hushed; his face, chiselled by months of strict dieting, barely moves as he speaks.

Train. Eat. Rest. Repeat. Thomas knows the drill by now. He will turn 38 when the Giro’s penultimate stage rolls into Rome in a little over three weeks.

Yet as routine as all these pre-race rituals are for the Welshman, with only a year remaining on his contract after this season, Thomas is savouring every moment he has left in this glittering career as the spectre of retirement comes into view.

“I can see the end now, and it's pretty close,” he tells BBC Sport Wales. “I've done 18 years and only got one and a half left. Make the most of it, just enjoy it.

“Because when I was a kid this is what I dreamed of doing, being in the biggest races and competing right at the death of them. So to be here now and in one of the strongest teams, being one of the guys with a real chance of succeeding, it's crazy really.”

A looming sense of finality is natural at this point for Thomas, who also strikes a philosophical tone when discussing the Giro – somewhat surprisingly.

Thomas would be forgiven for feeling wronged by this prestigious race. In 2017 and 2020, crashes beyond his control ruined his chances of victory, and then last year he was pipped to the title in agonising fashion.

Having led for most of the race, Thomas was overhauled by Primoz Roglic in the penultimate stage as a brutal mountain time trial saw a three-week race decided by just 14 seconds.

“Last year I did deal with most of that,” Thomas says. “Crashing out in 2017 and in 2020, when I felt like I was in great shape, was frustrating. But then at least last year, with all the sort of challenges before the start – this infection that kept coming back, stop-starting the training and things – I was still competitive.

“To be wearing the [leader's] jersey for half the race and to lose it on the last day obviously wasn't ideal. But I feel like Primoz won that rather than me losing the race.

“So that's what helped, I guess, but it'd still be nice to win, obviously. But I've done 18 years professionally now, racing. I've achieved what I have, and it kind of feels a bit more like a bonus round almost, rather than feeling like I have to prove something.”

Geraint Thomas (left) with Primoz Roglic (centre) and Joao Almeida
Geraint Thomas (left) was dramatically pipped to the 2023 Giro d'Italia title by Primoz Roglic (centre) [Getty Images]

The quiet contentment of an elite athlete coming to the end of the road, you might think. And, to some extent, you might be right. Thomas seems liberated by the relative lack of expectations for this race.

Do not be fooled, though. Tadej Pogacar, prodigiously talented and twice a Tour de France champion, may well be the overwhelming favourite in Italy but Thomas, next best according to most bookmakers, believes he could yet win a second Grand Tour.

“I think on paper he [Pogacar] is definitely the strongest but, as we all know, in any sport, a lot can happen. A lot can go right, go wrong and you’ve got to believe you've got a chance,” Thomas says.

“Otherwise there’s no point even turning up, it would be a waste of time. So yeah, we're confident that we’ve got a strong team and we can do something in this race.”

Thomas is used to confounding the odds. He won the 2018 Tour de France despite not starting the race as his team’s leader and, as he finished third in Paris four years later, he took great satisfaction in “proving a few people wrong”.

When he lines up for Saturday’s first stage of the Giro in Turin, where doubters are concerned, Thomas will not be wasting any of his precious energy.