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Thomas was part of the original recruiting class at the team’s founding in 2010 and rode a wave of glory that saw it claim seven yellow jerseys by four different riders, including his own in 2018, in an eight-year run.
Since Egan Bernal’s Tour win in 2019, however, a new generation of riders led by Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard are setting the tone each July.
Thomas, who says next season could be his last, pushed back against the idea that the team’s been eclipsed by the likes of Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates.
“With the strength of the team, it goes through waves,” Thomas told VeloNews and Cyclingnews in a recent interview. “Maybe for a couple of years we were not as strong or as deep as we had been, but it’s not like we’re a million miles away.
“The whole sport keeps moving on.”
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Thomas admitted the obvious, however, and said things are now tougher for Ineos Grenadiers with the rise of Pogačar and Vingegaard, both backed by well-funded, deep teams at UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma, respectively.
“It’s a lot harder when you don’t have the best guy in the race,” Thomas said. “For years, we always had the strongest guy there. And then, Pogačar changed that, and now Vingegaard. That’s the biggest difference.”
Ineos Grenadiers pivots toward youth
Going into 2023, Thomas is at the end of the final year of his current contract with Ineos Grenadiers. He confirmed he’s not sure if he will return to the Tour next season or if he will race beyond next year.
“We have to sit down and work out what I want to do. It could be my last year as well,” Thomas said. “I don’t even know if I will do the Tour, to be honest. Maybe the Giro. I don’t know. It’s all up in the air, really.”
For 2023, the UK team is moving out a lot of its most experienced riders, including Adam Yates, Richard Carapaz, Dylan van Baarle, and Andrey Amador, while Richie Porte retired this season.
New recruits include Thymen Arensman and Leo Hayter. They join a bevy of recent recruits that includes Tom Pidcock, Magnus Sheffield, Ben Turner, and Luke Plapp.
Thomas, now 36, is watching with interest to see if one of these younger riders can pick up the mantle in the coming years.
“It’s still heading in the right direction, and the team’s taken a different approach,” he said. “They still need guys to lead it on the road who they can learn from.”
— Geraint Thomas (@GeraintThomas86) September 26, 2022
Thomas was a surprise in July when he kicked to third overall at the Tour as part of his best season since 2019, when he was second behind Bernal at the Tour.
With Bernal’s future uncertain despite encouraging signs of recovery from his horrific crash in January, Thomas said he’ll be watching with interest to see if someone else can step up.
“There’s been a lot of young riders coming on, it will be interesting to see how that develops,” Thomas said. “It’s a bright future.”
One name stands out. Thomas tipped Pidcock, a winner of the stage to Alpe d’Huez this year, as a future grand tour winner.
“Why not, with the way he’s super talented,” Thomas said. “His TT would need a bit more work for a grand tour, but he’s certainly heading in the right direction.”
Whether Thomas is there to witness it in person remains to be seen.