By Gareth James
Geraint Thomas will return to racing on Wednesday for the first time since a crash wrecked his Giro d’Italia dreams last October.
The 34-year-old will be part of a seven-strong Ineos Grenadiers squad for the five-stage Etoile de Besseges race in France.
Thomas will be joined by team-mate and fellow Welsh rider Owain Doull for a race that had drawn a stronger field than usual due to the COVID-19 hit season.
— Geraint Thomas (@GeraintThomas86) February 1, 2021
The Tour Down Under and the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana – two major early season races – have been hit by the pandemic.
Thomas will also be joined by team-mate Egan Bernal, a fellow former Tour de France champ who – like the Cardiff ace – has set his sights on the Yellow Jersey this year.
Ineos Grenadiers are taking a stacked line-up to France, including Geraint Thomas, Eddie Dunbar and Ethan Hayter.
Oher Grand Tour stars like multiple Grand Tour champ Vincenzo Nibali, Bauke Mollema Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal).
The race, centred around the Gard department in the south of France, features three sprint stages, one undulating Classics-style stage then a final stage 11km individual time trial.
Thomas fractured his pelvis when he crashed on stage three of the Giro after a water bottle was caught in his front wheel.
The Cardiff-born rider was looking set to challenge for the second Grand Tour victory of his career but spent weeks recovering at home before returning to training.
Thomas admitted it was difficult ‘mentally’ at the time to come to terms with the freak accident that denied him a real shot at the Giro.
“The first few days it was still raw, you are kind of just up and down,” said Thomas, a few days after the incident.
“At some point you forget about it as you are with the family, but then you go to bed and you start thinking ‘what could have been, what should have been’ and all this type of stuff.
“It’s only natural but at the same time it’s not useful.