When Taylor Phinney crossed the finish line at the end of the Giro prologue today, a big sigh went up here at VeloVeritas – ‘there goes our Giro prologue winner exclusive!’
Sky’s Geraint Thomas had been top of the leader board until Phinney used those amazing genes of his to great effect and the Weshman had to make do with second place.
It’s hard to believe, but Thomas is still only 25 years-old.
He rode the Tour at just 19, has been an Olympic champion and three times world champion in the team pursuit, former world record holder in the individual pursuit, former British road race champion, prologue winner, lead out man extraordinaire and last year established himself as a serious challenger in the cobbled Classics, talking second in Dwars Door behind Nick Nuyens.
Geraint and the VeloVeritas crew go way back to his Barloworld days; he very kindly took time to talk to us from Denmark on the Thursday evening prior to the prologue.
Despite the fact that you’re only 25, you’re the ‘senior man’ in the team pursuit squad now, Geraint.
“I guess so, Ed Clancy and I were in the winning team in Beijing and I’ve been in the world championship winning team, three times.
“It’s good for the younger riders that they can come to us for advice and to discuss their training.”
Russia and Denmark didn’t provide the opposition we expected in Melbourne.
“The Russians had one of their guys injured before the race in a crash – but I thought they’d maybe have been quicker.
“But to tell the truth, we’re not bothered if other teams are going slower!”
It must be hard to get motivation to do all those training laps of an empty track?
“The road is much more free style, you have to do the work but there are so many ways you can get the result.
“The track is much more clinical, it’s a different mentality – it would be hard to train all the time like that.
“The World Cup in London where the Aussies beat us was disappointing, but Melbourne was a great boost – especially for the young lads.”
It must be encouraging that you’re going faster than ever – but without Bradley.
“Definitely – and there’s more to come.
“We’ll have a six week build-up to London – the Worlds came just three weeks after Paris-Nice so there’s definitely room for improvement.”
Peter Kennaugh has fitted in well – but he’s not your typical ‘big engine’ team pursuiter?
“No, but he definitely has the speed – and that’s what matters.
“He’s a bit smaller, not the best to sit behind but he has the speed and that’s what’s important.”
And you came away from Melbourne with a madison silver, too.
“Ben and I were made up with the silver – definitely chuffed.
“We were just off the back when the big move went, I didn’t quite have the legs to go – I was swinging a bit, but came round and we got the lap.
“The last madison I rode was before Beijing and I only rode my bunch bike before this year’s madison.”
Will London be your last track adventure for a while?
“Definitely, post London I’m going to focus on the road for two years.
“But I’m looking forward to riding the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 – I missed the last ones.
“I rarely get the chance to pull on a Wales jersey, that’ll be special.”
“That’s just a number that people have come up with; it’s not possible to be that specific.
“We’ll be training to go as fast as we can and I know we can go a second or two quicker – but sub 3:50 is a tall order.”
Romandie, your first prologue win.
“I always knew I had a good chance in prologues; that one was perfect for me, with the short distance and me coming out of the Worlds in good shape.”
It must be a tough balance to be rapid for the Giro prologue but have the core for the three weeks?
“I’ve really just ridden my bike as much as I can since the Worlds – all that team pursuit work is still in my legs.
“I rode the Giro after the Worlds in 2008 and I’m stronger now.
“I’ll race the flat stages where I can but it’ll be the gruppetto in the mountains for me.”
The Giro prologue – who are the danger men?
“The usual – everyone!
“It could suit Hushovd, then there’s Phinney, the track guys – Bobridge, Sergent.
“And Rasmussen, of course – it’s Denmark so he’s going to be motivated.
“At 8.5 K it’s a little bit too long for me – there are quite a few corners, it’s reasonably technical.
“Our hotel is quite a way from the course so we’ll have our first practice on Saturday morning.”
What’s the Sky game plan for the Giro?
“We have Cav with us so we’ll be trying to set him up for the sprints.
“And we have our Columbian climbers – Rigoberto Uran is a good rider, it was only illness which kept him out of the top ten in the Tour, last year.
“We’ll protect them as long as we can on the mountain stages – then it’ll be up to them.”
What’s the Giro about for you, Geraint?
“The prologue, team time trial, leading out – all the fast, punchy stuff.
“The rest is for my endurance.”
“I think he’s in good nick – Romandie is a hard race to come back in, there are a lot of hills.
“He also had bike issues in the race.
“And of course they’ve had the baby, that would distract anyone – but he has the speed.”
What happens between the Giro and London, for you?
“I’ll have 10 to 14 days easy then straight on the track for a six week block at Manchester.
“There’s a five day holding camp at the Newport track after that; we go to London five days before the Games.
Did you miss the cobbled Classics?
“Of course, I grew up watching those races on TV and it wasn’t nice to miss them.
“But it’s a special year with the Olympic Games in London – I have a lot more years ahead of me when I can ride the Classics.”
Will we see you in the road Nationals?
“I think so – even though it’s not ideal preparation for the track.”
It must be a bit disappointing no to be riding the Tour?
“For sure, it’s a big year for the team with Bradley going for the GC – and Cav too, going for the green jersey.
“I’m a little sad but like I said, it’s a special year with the Olympics in Britain.”
But we’ll see you back in Belgium, next spring?
“I’ll be back on the cobbles!
“I’m looking forward to riding stage races, too.
“I think I can improve my climbing – whilst there’s a big difference between the top 20 and the podium, I think I could have been top 20 if I’d ridden for it.
“But really, I’ll just continue to work hard and push to improve.”