On Wednesday, Geraint Thomas will arrive at the start line of the men’s individual time trial battered and bruised but determined to add another prestigious title to his glittering collection.
A two-time Olympic Games gold medal winner on the track, Thomas’ focus has long since switched to the road following those successes in the team pursuit in Beijing and London in 2008 and 2012 respectively.
The Welshman reached the peak of the sport when he won the Tour de France in 2018 but his efforts to replicate that success on the Olympic roads has not always been smooth.
Thomas was in the leading group in the road race Rio in 2016 when a late crash on a descent ended his medal hopes, and it was a similar story on Saturday as what he later described as a “freak crash” saw him abandon the road race after 70 kilometres. It continued what has been a bruising summer, after an early crash in the Tour de France led to a punishing three weeks for the former yellow jersey winner.
The individual time trail therefore represents one last chance for the 35-year-old to experience one more taste of Olympic glory.
Born in Cardiff in 1986, Thomas began cycling at age 10 and later joined British Cycling’s academy system, eventually contributing to Team GB’s dominance of the sport.
His first Olympic success in 2008 came alongside his idol Bradley Wiggins and Ed Clancy, winning the team pursuit and setting a world record along the way. A second Olympic gold followed on home soil in 2012, but it would be last year Thomas would concentrate on the track over the roads.
After joining Team Sky in 2010, Thomas played key roles in Chris Froome’s Tour de France victories in 2013, 2014 and 2016, before he moved centre stage as he became the first Welshman, and third Briton, to win cycling’s most famous race in 2018 in what was a life-changing event.
Individual acclaim followed, and Thomas won the BBC’s Sport Personality of the Year award as well as receiving an OBE in the 2019 New Year Honours list. An Arsenal fan, he and wife Sara had their first child in son Macs in 2019.
But the desire to compete at the Olympic Games remained and Thomas arrived in Tokyo with high hopes following a couple of frustrating years competing in the Grand Tours.
The road race, which was eventually won by Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Richard Carapaz, saw Thomas crash after British rider Tao Geoghegan Hart lost his front wheel in a storm drain, causing the Welshman to come tumbling down. He landed on his right side, onto the same shoulder he dislocated in the Tour de France just weeks before.
“It’s disappointing after all the hard work and sacrifice, especially after the Tour and everything that happened there,” Thomas said. “But we live to fight another day and I’ll try to rest up now to give Wednesday one last go.”
The time trail starts at 2pm local time in Japan (6am BST) on Wednesday 28 July on the lower hills of Mount Fuji. A 44.2 kilometre race of rolling hills awaits the 35-year-old, who is also aiming to follow in Wiggins’ footsteps by winning Olympic medals on both the track and the road, as well as the Tour de France.
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