By Paul Jones
Geraint Thomas believes his return to the road is nicely paced as the countdown starts to the Tour de France at the end of the month.
The Team Ineos rider raced for the first time competitively when he finished 24th in a bunched sprint at the end of the opening stage of the Tour de l’Ain in Ceyzériat, France on Friday.
The Welsh 2018 Tour de France winner has happy with his display and will look for further progress in the remainder of the tour which continues on Saturday with a stage in the Jura mountains that includes five categorized climbs.
Andrea Bagioli (Deceuinck—Quick-Step) took his first professional victory at Friday’s opening stage with Thomas’s teammate Egan Bernal in 14th.
“I thought I’d struggle a bit with the punch and to start with I did,” said Thomas.
“But by the end I felt like I had legs decent enough to follow the moves. It was a nice start and it gets progressively harder now each day.
“It was definitely strange to start with. Going from training on your own for weeks during lockdown, then to Tenerife riding in a group again – to suddenly be back in a peloton like that was definitely different.
“It felt good though, actually. It’s good to test the legs properly instead of just riding to numbers in training. It’s important to be back in the peloton and getting that rhythm back.”
Normally a low key race, the Tour de l’Ain has this year attracted a smattering of heavy hitters, among them Chris Froome, Bernal, Thomas (all Team Ineos), Primoz Roglič and Tom Dumoulin.
The race concludes on Sunday with a mountainous route to Grand Colombiere that mimics the decisive stage 15 of the upcoming Tour de France.
Thomas is relishing the chance to test his race sharpness, before heading to the Criterium du Dauphine and ultimately the Tour’s Grand Depart on August 29.
“I’m pretty chilled about it really. Obviously I’d love to win, but at the same time it’s not make or break.
Back racing!! It’s been a while… Can you tell I’m happy? pic.twitter.com/9hfuMqeSud
— Geraint Thomas (@GeraintThomas86) August 7, 2020
“We’ll just see how it goes, see how the legs are and obviously speak to Egan (Bernal) as well. He’s already got a win, and I think the team are moving really well. We’ll just take each day as it comes really.
“We’ve got a really strong team here, and with Jumbo-(Visma) and a few other teams being so strong – and because there’s such limited races now – it’s worked out really well for the race.
“To have a lot of strong Tour contenders here is exciting and with our team you can’t ask for more really.
“We had a really good training camp in Tenerife. The roads were quiet and the team did a great job to get us out there to be consistent with what we’re used to.
“The block was a similar time out from the Tour to what we’ve done previously. I really enjoy it out there and it works really well. It’s hard work. The process is hard but the outcome is worth it.”