World Champion and new Team Pursuit World Record holder, Geraint Thomas MBE, returned to Wales to take on the route of the Etape Cymru yesterday.

Thomas took on a 30-mile section of the closed-road cyclosportive’s route, including the Panorama and Horseshoe Pass climbs. The event will be held on Sunday 9th September 2012.

“I really enjoy coming back to Wales to ride, the roads are unbelievably challenging but at the same time provide really nice scenery so there is plenty to look at on the way round.

“I come here to ride when I can as my girlfriend has relatives just around the corner so it’s always good to come back to North Wales and ride these great roads.

“The Etape Cymru route has been designed with some great climbs and includes some spectacular roads. And it’s in Wales, at the end of the day, it’s the best country in the world.”

The Welshman returned to his home country as a new World Record Holder after flying straight from the World Championships in Melbourne.

“Melbourne was unbelievable. To go there and win the Worlds in Australia’s back yard and get a world record at the same time is just a great feeling.

“It was good to turn it around from London and I’m not sure a lot of people expected us to do it so quickly.”

Come September, participants of the Etape Cymru will get the rare chance to take on the cyclosportive under closed road conditions.

“It’s great to support the event, especially with the Etape Cymru being on closed roads; not many people get the chance go ride on closed roads so it’s the perfect opportunity for them to do so.”

Thomas may have returned to his home country on a high, but ahead of the London Olympics, he insists there’s still more room for improvement from the Great Britain team.

“I definitely think we can improve, if I spend more time on the track I will improve a lot more. From the Worlds in 2008 to the Beijing Olympics we improved nearly three seconds and I think we can similar again.

“We’ve still got a lot of training to do and it’s part of the plan to keep pushing forward and I think, for sure, we can improve another couple of seconds.”

The closed-road Etape Cymru is organised by Participate Sport, who also own and organise the Wiggle Dragon Ride in South Wales.

Thomas, a proud Welshman, has taken the decision not to ride the Tour de France in order to focus on becoming a Welsh Gold medallist for the second time at the 2012 Olympics.

“Wales doesn’t have lots of chances for a Gold medal so I’m proud to be in this position. I felt with the Tour, leading up to the games it would have drawn my attention away from the track; I wanted to give the Olympics everything.

“I’ve grown up watching the Olympics, wanting to be part of it. I want to get on the start line in London and know I haven’t jeopardised my chances in any way. I don’t want to get there with any excuses or doubts in my head. Hopefully it will be enough on the day, and if not, that’s the way it is; I’ll have no excuses.”

Thomas believes his ambition to succeed for Wales will have a positive effect on cycling in Wales, and the rise in people taking up cycling and mass participation challenges.

“People watching the games will be inspired to take on challenges like the Etape Cymru.

“More and more people are aware of leading healthy lifestyles and it’s just a great challenge. Having the chance to cycle on closed roads is a massive incentive for people to get stuck in and ride their bikes in this unique environment and come and discover a great part of Wales.”

The Etape Cymru is committed to supporting the local area and is working with Macmillan Cancer Support as the national charity and Nightingale House Hospice as the local charity.

Macmillan Cancer Support are encouraging people to sign up and fundraise for them:

“We are delighted to be the official charity partner for the Etape Cymru and are looking forward to being part of a successful event in the stunning North Wales countryside. We hope the knowledge that riders’ efforts are helping to support people affected by cancer will encourage and motivate more people to join Team Macmillan and take part in this fantastic event.”

Caroline Siddall, Income Generation Director at Nightingale House Hospice, said:

“We are delighted to have been chosen to be the local charity partner for the Etape Cymru closed road sportive. Participate Sport have very kindly donated free places to help raise money for the hospice.

“We are all facing challenging financial times and in 2012 it will cost £2.54 million to run the Hospice – this equates to nearly £7000 per day. We greatly rely on the generosity of the communities we serve to raise the additional funding we need to open all year round. The places in this event will really help up towards our target. All we ask is that those supporters taking one of our free place pledge to raise a minimum of £150.”

More information on the Etape Cymru route can be found on: http://www.etape-cymru.co.uk. The event will cost £55 and entries are now open.