Evening Standard

Riding high: Geraint Thomas says he has learnt so much from riding in this year's Tour de France. Image courtesy of Evening Standard

Cadel Evans made history yesterday by becoming the first Australian to win the Tour de France but Britain’s 2012 medal hopefuls are confident that the London Olympics will provide a different story.

Minutes after Advance Australia Fair had rung out over the Place de la Concorde, I asked Geraint Thomas whether he was worried that he might have to hear a lot more of that national anthem next summer.

Cardiff-born Thomas, 25, who won gold as part of the team pursuit in Beijing, smiled and said: “The Australians can say what they want about the British, morale-wise we are in great spirits. Everyone forgets that me and Bradley [Wiggins] have stepped away for quite a while. We’re pretty confident that, when we come back in and give it 100 per cent, it will be different.”

And that difference, Thomas is certain, will be demonstrated in the London Olympics. “The preparation for 2012 is going well,” he added. “London means a lot to me. That’s where we want to give it a good bash and do well. The track is probably my best chance of winning a gold medal. The British public will get behind the Games.”

But, unlike Victoria Pendleton, he does not believe home pressure will prove too big a burden.

“I will not feel it,” he insisted. “It’s the same as being anywhere else, just another bike race for me. I don’t think about it too much. I just get on with the job, do the training and get in the best shape I can be. I am sure if we do everything right, that will be enough.”

Thomas has signed a three-year deal to remain with Team Sky – whose main sponsor is IG Markets – until the end of 2014. The Tour might have been different for his team if a crash near Chateauroux in the seventh stage had not seen team leader Bradley Wiggins break his left collarbone and withdraw.

Thomas had worn the white jersey as the Tour’s best young rider until he lost time waiting due to the crash. Despite this, he has come away from Paris sure that it has been a great preparation for 2012.

“In getting ready for London, this makes you stronger,” he said. “The Tour went a lot better than I thought. I have done things that I have never done before. The amount of work you put in over three weeks – the general fitness and endurance – gives you a lot of confidence.”

Thomas agrees with the general view that, in taking the coveted yellow jersey, Evans has done it through defensive riding. “Yeah, he rides to his strengths. He attacks a bit more now but he’s a clever rider. There’s no point him attacking in the mountains when he can get the points in the time trial. He has just got to limit his damage in the mountains.”

Thomas’s Team Sky colleague Ben Swift agreed with Thomas’s assessment. Swift is hopeful that this, his first experience of the Tour de France, will help him to make the British 2012 team.

“It’s been a childhood dream to race in the Tour de France, I was a bit in awe of the event in the first week. But, despite that, I really enjoyed my experience. It’s an awesome occasion, especially to make it to Paris and to the Champs Elysees and to be part of the breakaway is extra special.”

That breakaway eventually saw Mark Cavendish win Sunday’s phase and secure the green jersey. Swift, 23, who has come from the British cycling youth system that served Cavendish so well, had hopes of giving the Isle of Man rider a fight before fading. For all his recent progress, Swift cannot be certain of selection, unlike Thomas.

But he exudes a level of confidence that is part of modern British cycling. He added: “If I get into the team, I stand a good chance of making it into the medals. London 2012 will be massive.”


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