Tour of Britain 2018: Geraint Thomas hoping for ‘special’ race

Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas wears the yellow jersey as he cycles through Cardiff at his homecoming parade

Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas is riding the Tour of Britain for the ninth time

Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas says he is looking forward to a “special eight days of racing” in front of home crowds at the Tour of Britain.

Thomas and Team Sky team-mate Chris Froome opted against riding the Vuelta a Espana to race the Tour of Britain, which starts in Wales on Sunday.

More than 8,000 fans lined Cardiff’s streets earlier this month for Thomas’ homecoming parade to mark his Tour win.

“After the support I had, it’ll be nice to race on home roads,” said Thomas.

“The homecoming was insane, I didn’t know what to expect, I was fearing it just being my wife and the dog,” the Welshman, 32, told BBC Radio 5 live’s BeSpoke show.

“But it was just phenomenal – if the support at the Tour of Britain is anything like that, it’s going to be a pretty special eight days of racing.”

He added the first stage has particular significance, starting in Pembrey Country Park, Carmarthenshire, near where Thomas’ dad is from, and ending in Newport, the site of Wales’ National Velodrome, which will be renamed in Thomas’ honour.

However, Thomas said he expects to be riding mainly in a support role after “not the most professional” spell since his Tour victory in July.

“There has been a lot of travelling and a few nights out as well so my form is certainly not what it was in France but I still should have decent enough legs to be in the race and hopefully at the front doing something,” he said.

Alongside Thomas and six-time Grand Tour winner Froome, Team Sky’s line-up is made up of fellow Briton Ian Stannard, Dutchman Wout Poels, Belarus’ Vasil Kiryienka and Poland’s Lukasz Wisniowski.

Both Thomas and Froome have been included in Great Britain’s longlist for the road race and time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Austria from 23-30 September, though Thomas is still unsure if he will compete.

“I’m leaning towards my season finishing after the Tour of Britain but I’m just keeping my options open at the moment,” he said.

“If I feel like I’ve got good enough form to help at the worlds then I’d go but I don’t want to go just to purely make up the numbers because that would be pointless.”

Teams and riders

The 2018 Tour of Britain features 20 teams of six riders, including 11 outfits from the top level of the sport, the UCI World Tour, while there are also five British UCI continental teams and a Great Britain national squad.

There are no former winners in this year’s edition, but plenty of pedigree alongside Froome and Thomas, such as LottoNL-Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic, who finished fourth at the Tour in July, and Quick-Step Floors’ Julian Alaphilippe, who won two stages and the king of the mountains classification at the Tour.

Many of the climbers will be looking to use the Tour of Britain to build their form for the World Championship road race on 30 September, which takes place on a hilly course.

With at least three and potentially up to five stages set to end in a bunch sprint finish, there are several star sprinters riding, including 11-time Tour de France stage winner Andre Greipel, Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria, who won two Tour stages on debut this year, and Australian Caleb Ewan, while Britons Dan McLay and Ben Swift could also contend.

There are 39 Britons riding in total, with junior world time trial champion Tom Pidcock, 19, leading Team Wiggins, who were added to the line-up on Tuesday after folding Irish outfit Aqua Blue Sport pulled out.

The overall leader wears the green jersey, with jerseys also on offer for the points classification (most consistent finisher), king of the mountains (best climber) and sprints classification (most points won in intermediate sprints).

Stage-by-stage guide

Stage one: Sunday, 2 September – Pembrey Country Park to Newport – 174.8km

Despite climbs throughout the stage, a reduced bunch sprint finish should decide the first leader’s jersey, although a 9% average gradient climb in the final 10km could split the race.

Stage two: Monday, 3 September – Cranbrook to Barnstaple – 174.9km

A tough stage with plenty of climbs and descents. A flatter ending could see the race come back together for a sprint, though the short, sharp climb of Challacombe is close enough to the finish that riders could try to attack and stay away.

Stage three: Tuesday, 4 September – Bristol to Bristol – 128km

A short but difficult loop that includes an ascent of Cheddar Gorge and finishes atop Clifton Down, which could split the general classification contenders.

Stage four: Wednesday, 5 September – Nuneaton to Leamington Spa – 183.5km

After two tough days, this relatively easy route should end in a bunch sprint, though a strong breakaway group could stay clear.

Stage five: Thursday, 6 September – team time trial – Cockermouth to Whinlatter Pass – 14km

An uphill team time trial that is likely to be decisive for the general classification.

Stage six: Friday, 7 September – Barrow-in-Furness to Whinlatter Pass – 168.3km

Another key battle for the overall contenders, featuring two ascents of Whinlatter Pass from its harder eastern side, with the finish at its summit.

Stage seven: Saturday, 8 September – West Bridgford to Mansfield – 215.6km

The longest stage of the race should end in a bunch sprint finish, despite the exertions of the previous days.

Stage eight: Sunday, 9 September – London – 77km

The general classification should be decided by now, with the final stage consisting of 14 laps of a central London circuit, ending in a bunch sprint finish on Regent Street.

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