By Gareth James
Geraint Thomas has no intentions of following Mark Cavendish by riding off into retirement any time soon as he targets Giro d’Italia success and finalising a contract extension at Ineos Grenadiers.
Welshman Thomas admits he did not quite believe his friend Cavendish would go through with his plans when he told him in confidence ahead of this year’s Giro.
Thomas, who played a key role when Cavendish won the world road race championship in 2011, hailed the Manxman as the “greatest sprinter of all time” and hopes he goes on to break the record for Tour de France stage wins later this summer.
Having previously hinted 2023 might be his final season as a professional cyclist, Thomas – who turns 37 on Thursday – remains fully focused on the challenges ahead.
“I said before the start of this tour that I just want to concentrate on the race,” Thomas told a media call during Monday’s Giro rest day.
“Talk has started with this team about extending (my contract), but I am going to cross that bridge in a couple of weeks after this race hopefully.”
Thomas, who won the 2018 Tour de France, has raced alongside Cavendish in the British Cycling set-up as well as for one season at Team Sky.
“He is the greatest sprinter of all time when you see his record and it has been an honour to ride with him,” said Thomas.
“Mark told me at the start of the Giro. I didn’t really believe him. I kind of thought he would keep going.
“He has had an incredible career. He is still racing, though, and has got to get the record at the Tour (de France) and hopefully win a stage here.”
Thomas surrendered the pink jersey to Bruno Armirail on stage 14, and heads into Tuesday’s 203-kilometre mountain course from Sabbio Chiese to Monte Bondone just over a minute off the pace and only two seconds ahead of favourite Primoz Roglic.
Thomas, though, will not take any unnecessary risks as he plots a successful path towards Rome.
“I certainly want to race, but I don’t want to just attack for the entertainment and then blow myself up and somebody else profit from it,” the Welshman said.
“We have got three mountain-top road stages and a super hard TT (time trial), so people have to try.
“We (Ineos) are obviously not leading the race because I am second, but when you look at the GC guys on top of the tree, you would say the onus is on other guys to try and gain some time back.
“But we have got our way of how we want to race and what we are thinking and hopefully that can come off.”
Thomas added: “I don’t think any of us will feel too comfortable with the situation at the moment – between me and Primoz there is only two seconds and anything can happen.
“You know for sure he is going to try to gain time and me as well, same with Joao (Almeida).
“The next three mountain stages will be interesting because we are all going to look to see if we can try to get something over the others.”