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From The Graham Norton Show to the French mountains – Thomas' long road back to normality

Geraint Thomas

Two weeks ago, Geraint Thomas was sat on a sofa next to Nicole Kidman on The Graham Norton Show.

Chatting with a Hollywood actress on primetime TV would once have been alien territory for the Welshman but these days it is a scene which typifies how his life has changed since winning the Tour de France.

Now, after the longest off-season of his life, the 32-year-old is starting the long, arduous process to regain the peak level of performance which brought him the fabled yellow jersey.

Thomas is back with Team Sky, scaling the mountains of southern France, and he is feeling rusty.

“I’ve been back training two weeks now and I’m starting to feel like a bike rider again,” he told BBC Sport Wales.

“The first week was tough going but it’s nice to be back in one place, a bit of routine and back on the regime with the diet.

“It was hard to start with. I’m about three weeks behind everyone at the moment so it’s a bit of a grind but I’m sure we’ll get there.”

Geraint Thomas with Nicole Kidman, Stephen Fry and Joe Lycett on the Graham Norton Show

In common with many elite athletes, Thomas likes routine.

He is happiest riding for hours on his bike or relaxing at home with his wife Sara, watching a box set or playing with their dog Blanche.

For a Tour de France champion, such opportunities are becoming so scarce that Thomas cannot recall being off his bike for such long periods.

“I can’t remember. I think when I was a kid,” he said.

“It’s certainly the longest off-season I’ve ever had but I’ve enjoyed it and made the most of it.

“By the end of it I was craving just to be in one place, doing five or six hours on the bike and then getting home and sitting on the sofa. A bit of normality.

“I moved apartment last week as well, which didn’t really help. Back to the real world.”

Following in the footsteps of comedians

Thomas and his Sky colleagues will travel to Mallorca for a training camp next week, before he embarks on a personal training camp in Los Angeles over the New Year.

The double Olympic track champion’s season starts in earnest in February but, before then, he still has to make time for one more extracurricular activity.

Thomas will be on stage in Cardiff on Saturday, 26 January, in conversation with broadcaster Ned Boulting for an event entitled ‘Geraint Thomas: Welsh Legend’.

“That’s a bit crazy really. We’re just chatting about my career and giving a different insight, having a bit of fun with it,” said Thomas.

“It’s strange, even this time last year, you dream of winning races and then suddenly you’re at the Motorpoint Arena like [comedian] Michael McIntyre. Well, I won’t be making any jokes like him but it’s certainly surreal.

“It’s going to be strange. The last one I went to see [at the Motorpoint Arena] was [comedian] Jon Richardson last year, so it’ll be weird being on the stage rather than sat in the audience.

“It’s kind of a similar feeling to this year being on the podium at the Champs Elysees rather than watching from my front room in Cardiff. It’s been a crazy few months.”

Planning for the Tour

Geraint Thomas (left) with Chris Froome

Thomas and Team Sky are in the early stages of preparing his race schedule for the coming season, when the focus will be on the three Grand Tours – the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.

All three are prestigious races but the Tour retains a special place as cycling’s crown jewel.

Four-time champion Chris Froome started this year’s edition as Sky’s leader but, as he faltered and fell behind Thomas, the team eventually turned their support to the Welshman.

Next year poses team principal Sir Dave Brailsford with an intriguing choice: Back Froome for a record fifth title or give Thomas the chance to defend his crown?

Is it possible to do both?

“I’m not sure but if we both wanted to go to the Tour 100%, as long as we both ride like we did this year, we can both do really well,” said Thomas.

“As long as we don’t race against each other, we both have our ambitions and that works well in training because we both push each other.

“Obviously Froomey wants to go back to the Tour and win his fifth, which would be a record.

“I definitely feel there’s unfinished business there [Giro] but next year might be the wrong time.

“Being there [at the Tour] with number one on my back, it would be a shame to know I wouldn’t be at my best, so I’m definitely leaning more towards that.

“But I just need to sit down with Tim [Kerrison, Team Sky coach] over the next few weeks and nail down a plan.”

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BBC Sport – Cycling

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