‘We used to bomb around on our BMXs pretending we were in the Tour de France’

Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe flying Wales flag

Team Sky team-mates Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe fly the Welsh flag on the final stage of the Tour de France

Twelve months ago, Welsh cyclist Luke Rowe was lying in a hospital bed having broken his leg in 25 places while white-water rafting on a stag do.

On Sunday, the Team Sky road captain rode down Paris’ Champs-Elysees alongside Geraint Thomas knowing he had helped his childhood friend become the first Welshman to win the Tour de France.

It was the fourth Tour squad success for Rowe, 28, who had supported Chris Froome during his 2015, 2016 and 2017 victories.

But he says this year’s race was “a bit more special” with ‘G’ on top of the podium.

“To think we were just two kids bombing around the streets on our BMXs without a care in the world and pretending we were in the Tour de France,” he told BBC Sport Wales.

Rowe was with Thomas throughout the celebrations, saying his fellow Welshman was “still on cloud nine” and that the scale of his achievement were yet to sink in as he raced again on Tuesday.

“For me, it’s sunk in a little bit more,” said Rowe.

“A week ago I thought ‘yeah he can win this’ but I don’t think he let himself believe he could until he finished the time trial.”

Road to recovery

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Rowe said he and Thomas will “always be mates” whatever teams they ride for

Rowe says he would have “snapped your hand off” if someone told him he would be back to his best just a year after his accident in Prague.

He even believes he has come back stronger, and says this was his finest Tour display.

“I got surrounded by a great group of people right from the get-go, we were so organised. I never woke up not knowing what I had to do,” he said.

“Whenever I got given a milestone, I smashed through it and was always ahead of schedule. When I kept beating the barriers I thought, ‘yeah, I can do this, I can come back’.”

Rowe also admitted to being in a fortunate position where he had “the best of the best” treatment.

“It was all put in place and down to me to put in the hard work,” he said.

“I put everything on pause and dedicated my life to one thing and that was getting back to where I was before. When you put your heart and soul into it, good things normally happen.”

Rowe made his comeback on the Abu Dhabi Tour in February.

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Luke Rowe leads Team Sky on stage 17 of the Tour de France 2018

Ultimate team player

Like Thomas has been for Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins, Rowe’s role in Team Sky is as a domestique – a support rider.

Rowe said he could never win the race himself, “not in a million years”. He puts it down to his build, which he says would never allow him to climb mountains and peaks fast enough to be in contention.

“Some riders are signed to win the race, some riders are signed to support,” Rowe said.

“The Tour de France is an eight-man team, two leaders who try and win the race and the other six go purely to support them.

“You go for three weeks and you know you’re not going to get one single opportunity or a snippet of a chance for yourself. It’s all for someone else. That’s the way cycling is.”

But Rowe said he is happy in his role: “I’m not going to be the guy who can win the race, far from it.

“Rather than go to another team and maybe have a chance at individual stages, I’d rather stick with this team, stay with this great bunch of guys and dedicate myself to them. I’m happy doing that.”

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Luke Rowe said he was “a small piece in a big puzzle” with Team Sky

Welsh connections

Rowe said it was “mad” to think the Tour de France-winning squad had such a strong Welsh influence. Thomas is backed up by a road captain also from Cardiff and the feat masterminded by Team Sky’s principal Sir Dave Brailsford, who is from north Wales.

“To ride the Tour together numerous times and then to go and win it with ‘G’, it’s kind of surreal… it doesn’t really happen,” he said.

“We’re in a fortunate position where we get on with the boss. Me, ‘G’ and Dave all get on like a house on fire and that’s a nice environment to work in.”

Rowe, who hopes to return to Wales next week, said Thomas’ win was great for British sport, and more specifically, Welsh sport.

“It doesn’t get any bigger – what he’s achieved will go into legendary status,” he said.

“He’s getting what he deserves and hopefully the sport will kick off from here.”

Thomas’ Team Sky contract is up at the end of the year, with the new Tour de France champion saying he has a “big decision” to make as there are “plenty of other teams” interested in him.

Brailsford says Thomas should stay with Team Sky, and Rowe says it is up to the rider himself.

“We will wait and see and it is not for me to say too much,” said Rowe.

“It would be a shame to see him leave but you have got to do what you got to do. Whatever happens we will still be mates but we will see what happens.”

Looking ahead, Rowe is due to compete in the European Championships in Glasgow later this month, and is expecting a baby boy with his wife Cath in September.

“That’s the next big thing I’m looking forward to. I’m super excited to become a dad,” he said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/45039939

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