Gerant Thomas: Ineos Grenadiers saw me as ‘Sepp Kuss mountain house’ before the Tour de France

Rocamadour, France (VN) – Gerante Thomas isn’t the type to turn around and say “I told you so” and what would the point be anyway?

He let his legs and the podium in Paris speak when it comes to answering some of the questions and doubts his side had with him at the end of last season.

A little less than twelve months ago, Ineos Grenadiers considered Thomas to be no longer able to compete for the top prizes.

A slew of new signings and Egan Bernal are lined up to lead in the coming years with Thomas set to play a wise and brilliant old teammate when he’s called up in the mountains.

To give Ineos some credit, it was looking at Thomas’ latest catalog of results up to 2020 and 2021 in three weeks’ races, and with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) raising the bar, that was fair. For Ineos to think about where and how to bridge the gap.

It turned out that the team’s best answer was the 36-year-old who thought he was nothing more than a mountain fan.

Cycling has a funny knack at the heart of the script. When Egan Bernal crashed and his season was written off, the call came for Danny Martinez and Adam Yates to fill the void.

Thomas has yet to be given confirmation as to his place on the Tour, despite the fact that neither Martinez nor Yates finished off the podium at the Grand Tour, but as spring turned to early summer, Thomas kept his head low and his attorney closed.

His wife told him back in November 2021 that he would be knocked out of the Tour on the podium, and while Ineos doubted he could reach those heights, the Welshman warmed up and prepared as if he was going to the Tour as a potential contender.

Then Martinez fell off the bars in the Tour de Suisse, a race that Thomas won, then Yates contracted COVID. Even as the Tour approached, Thomas – the jockey who was on a groundbreaking mission in early Switzerland – was not given the full lead.

Four weeks later, Thomas arrived in Paris on the podium for the third time in his career. Neither Vingegaard nor Pogačar really bothered but the “best of the rest” was still enough to secure a well-deserved third place.

Thomas said when asked what Ineos thought of him at the end of last season and in the early stages of this year.

That changed a bit after Switzerland. I am very happy to be in the mix.”

“I knew I could still be good’

The impulse came from a desire to prove that at 36 he can still mix it up with the best. Thomas and team boss Rod Ellingworth sat at Welchman’s house in the winter and Thomas explained what he wanted: fundamentally adjusting his program towards the Tour with the goal of being in the best shape possible.

“It’s just the kind of personality I am. You don’t give up just because someone told you you can’t do something. I knew deep down that I could still be good and just wanted to come here as best I could,” he said after stage 20 of round.

“Even if it meant being like Seb and taking super rides in the mountains and stopping in other days or if it meant being on the podium, I just wanted to give myself the best chance.”

Thomas was not the highlight of the British team in this year’s race. Tom Pidcock beat Alpe d’Huez on his racing debut and the team heads to Paris to collect the teams’ classification.

There is still a huge gap between Ineos, Jumbo-Visma and the UAE Team Emirates, the two teams that dominated the entire GC battle during the Tour de France.

Thomas wasn’t really in the fight for the yellow and finished the race over eight minutes on the yellow for Vingegaard and sometime in the next year or two the team will either need to invest or develop talent that can challenge again for the Tour.

Thomas was asked how Ineos could close the gap to Pogačar and Vingegaard in the future, and while the British side still hope to return Bernal to former glories, it is unclear whether this will be enough to end the team’s short but noteworthy drought.

“Next year might be my last year anyway, so I don’t really care, I’ll enjoy watching it,” Thomas joked.

“It’s tough. These two are unbelievable. Tom Pidcock definitely has a really bright future, but it’s something that rides like him and it’s something else that wins. But why not? Sure the team will be behind him but in the short term, who are you going to sign? These two are from Notable players.

“The best way, as we came here, is to have a strong lineup. If you have three really good guys, maybe Jumbo is too strong, in the UAE you say they were weak, but on that day, Bjerg and McNulty… jeppers.

“We’ve definitely finished our work but that’s the challenge and that’s what gets you out of bed in the morning. It’s going to motivate us and I’ll do everything I can to help, whether I complete another year or two. We can definitely do that, it’s just that we’re going to cut our work.”

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