When INEOS Grenadiers started their campaign to win this year’s Giro d’Italia, they had pinned their hopes on a Brit to lead the charge and, hopefully, get the win in one of the big three races of the cycling calendar. That did happen, only not in the way that they had expected. A Brit did win. That Brit did ride for INEOS Grenadiers. That Brit was Tao Geoghegan Hart. It was not Geraint Thomas. Having been made the centre-point of their attack, Thomas tragically crashed out at the beginning of stage three when a water bottle became wedged under his front wheel, hurling him to the pavement and fracturing his pelvis. He bravely finished the stage, cut and bloody, but had to retire soon after. The pain was too much and to continue was unrealistic.
A heart-breaking end to the season for one of INEOS Grenadiers’ top riders has left Thomas in a state of limbo as he recovers from the injury and reflects on the year gone by. He said “I crashed out of the Giro, which was my big goal of the year, so it also feels like I don't deserve an off-season because I never really got into the racing. The first week after the injury was tough, I maybe wasn't doing the rehab and resting as much as I could have (too much Veloflow to stop moving, I’m sure) but it's a lot better now.” I think that’s something with which many people worldwide can identify after the weirdness and uncertainty of this year. Our “Great War” equivalent was sitting on the couch watching Netflix for three months before going back to work and yet many of us feel exhausted and burnt out. The toll has been emotional, and it has been heavy.
What makes things doubly hard for Geraint Thomas was having to watch from the side-lines as the person who took his position went on to claim victory. Thomas said as much, as Tao Geoghegan Hart had originally been on the team as a support rider, but found himself in the leader spot when Thomas had to withdraw. Of course, Thomas is happy for his compatriot – they are team-mates after all, but the competitive nature of a professional athlete is unyielding. He was, however, ever the professional and was full of praise for his teammate; “Tao is a great rider, full of potential… I had to go home after three days so he had the opportunity to finish it off and deal with the pressure which was great for him and the team.”
Geraint Thomas’ experience with failure at the Giro has been something of a microcosm for our collective situation this year, regarding the coronavirus. We have had no choice but to sit back, somewhat helplessly, as something that is completely out of our hands takes its course. Thomas sees the silver lining – “I have had more time to spend with my one-year-old child,” and he’s also looking ahead to next year. “The Tour de France and the Olympics… The Giro as well is also in the back of my mind, especially after this year.” Fighting words from an exceptional sportsman. We can all take a page.