From country lanes outside Cardiff to Olympic Gold medalist and Tour de France champion, Geraint Thomas is cemented as a Welsh sporting legend on both road and track.
So who is Geraint Thomas? What cycling achievements and sporting accolades does this high-flying Welshman hold? And what do you need to know?
In this article, we’ll be covering:
- Early Cycling, World-Class Training And Olympic Gold
- Beyond World Class: Geraint Thomas After 2008
- On The Road: 2012-Present
- Impact and Welsh Identity
- Major Wins, Records And Awards
Let’s dive in!
Early Cycling, World Class Training and Olympic Gold
Geraint Thomas grew up in South Wales, on the outskirts of Cardiff. He cycled from a young age with the Maindy Flyers, a local cycling club, alongside future teammate Luke Rowe.
Thomas found early success in both track and road cycling events as a junior.
Aged 17, he came 3rd in the National Junior Championships Road Race, and at 18 he took a silver medal in the points race in the 2004 U-23s European Track Championships.
In 2007 he became only the second-ever Welshman to ride in the Tour de France. His debut at Le Tour was challenging for the 21-year-old, as he finished second last and later described it as the most painful experience of his life.
By 2008, Thomas had been training in the legendary British Olympic Academy for several years, and in that year he made the decision not to enter the Tour and instead focus on track cycling.
2008 was to be a huge year for Thomas, and for British Cycling.
Since Britain’s first indoor velodrome was constructed in Manchester in 1994, there had been hopes to train a new generation of world-class British track cyclists. British cycling giant Peter Keen pioneered the “World Class” programme at Manchester’s National Cycling Centre. This programme produced a new breed of athletes who propelled Britain to international dominance.
Geraint Thomas entered the programme at a young age, and his rise to track cycling stardom coincided with a high point in professional British track cycling.
Entire books have been written about the effectiveness of Keen’s programme, which would produce some of the most decorated and celebrated athletes in British history.
Geraint Thomas entered his first Olympic games alongside legends such as Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Bradley Wiggins as part of the World Class Programme’s 2008 roster.
Earlier that year at the 2008 UCI World Championships, junior riders Geraint Thomas and Ed Clancy had joined Bradley Wiggins and Paul Manning to win the Team Pursuit for Britain.
The four went into the Beijing Games as world-class athletes with world-class ambitions.
They delivered, winning Gold in that year’s Team Pursuit and setting two world records.
As a whole, the British Cycling Team took golds in seven out of the ten velodrome events, and 14 medals in total. The era of British dominance had begun.
At the age of 22, the new Olympic champion was awarded an MBE – but Geraint Thomas was just getting started.
Beyond World Class: Geraint Thomas After 2008
The following year in the first round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Thomas raced the Individual Pursuit in the Manchester Velodrome – the arena he’d spent his formative years training at.
Thomas came first, setting a track record of 4:15.105 for the 4-kilometre (2.5 mile) race. He also won the Team Pursuit back alongside Ed Clancy, setting a track record of 3:54.395.
In the years between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, Thomas would perform impressively racing for Team Sky on the road, including an impressive performance as a key domestique at the 2011 Tour de France.
At the UCI World Championship, Geraint Thomas helped teammate Mark Cavendish to victory in the Road Race. Thomas again helped Cavendish to win three stages at the 2012 Giro d’Italia.
However, Geraint Thomas’ real focus in 2012 was the velodrome. It was, after all, the year of the London Olympic Games.
Team GB’s Team Pursuit quartet consisted of Thomas, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and the junior World Class academy product Peter Kennaugh.
The team defended the Olympic Gold, winning the Team Pursuit again at the 2012 games, along the way setting two world records in their first heat and the final. Thomas himself had set the record earlier that same year when winning the Team Pursuit for Britain in the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne.
The end of 2012 marked something of a turning point in Thomas’ career. He never returned to competitive track racing, instead setting his sights fully on the road.
On The Road: 2012 – Today
Post-2012, Geraint Thomas developed from a top-level team racer to an international star in his own right. Now fully focused on the road, he began finding success quickly.
Over the next few years, he was one of the key domestiques for Chris Froome in his period of Tour dominance. On the rare occasions he got the chance to race for himself, however, he consistently impressed – taking multiple stage wins at various races, including the Tour.
In an interview preserved by the People’s Collection Wales from 2014, Thomas is asked about his Tour de France ambitions: “I don’t know about winning…” he smiles.
Thomas entered 2018’s Tour de France as a domestique, riding in support of Team Sky’s leader Chris Froome. Early setbacks for Froome allowed Thomas into second place overall by Stage 10 – though he played down suggestions of a leadership change.
As the Tour stretched on it would become apparent that Froome’s early difficulties presented an opportunity for Thomas.
On Stage 11, Thomas attacked on the steep La Rosière summit finish to claim the overall lead – and the yellow jersey with it.
The following day, he won Stage 12 in a sprint finish on the legendary Alpe d’Huez climb. Not only was he the first-ever British winner at Alpe d’Huez, he secured Tour de France history as the first rider to win the stage in the yellow jersey.
With strong performances for the rest of the race, Thomas held his lead all the way to Avenue des Champs-Elysées, becoming the first Welshman to win the Tour de France.
A new high point in his career following his Olympic victories, newly-crowned Tour champion Geraint Thomas was named 2018’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year and appointed an OBE.
In the four years since, Geraint Thomas has placed second in the 2019 Tour and third in 2022, as well as winning the 2021 Tour de Romandie and 2022 Tour de Suisse. He remains a world-class road cyclist, riding for Manchester-based Ineos Grenadiers (formerly known as Team Sky).
Geraint Thomas married his wife Sara in 2015. They currently live in Monaco with their son, born in 2019.
Recognition and Welsh Identity
In the past, Thomas has expressed special interest in the Commonwealth Games, as the only international multi-sport event in which he’s able to race for Wales.
He and his wife Sara Elen Thomas were married in the Welsh St Tewdrics House in Chepstow, which they own and run as a wedding venue.
An hour-long documentary called Geraint Thomas: The Road Will Decide was shown on the BBC in 2019, following Geraint and Sara’s experiences during the 2018 Tour.
Welsh fans sing the popular Welsh-language song Titw Tomos Las, (with “Tomos” emphasised) in support of the Welshman. In response, BBC Radio Cymru recorded the updated version for broadcast.
Major Victories, Records, and Awards
To finish up this high-flyer’s career to date, we’ve put together a “cheat sheet” of some of Thomas’ major victories and records.
On the track:
- Olympic Gold in the Team Pursuit in 2008 and 2012.
- Eight Golds in UCI World Cup Classics for Team and Individual Pursuits from 2006 to 2012.
- Two victories in UEC European Championships Team Pursuits in 2006 and 2011.
On the road:
- Tour de France General Classification Winner in 2018. Two further podium finishes in 2019 and 2022.
- Winner of nine international stage races, 2011 onwards.
- Winner of three one-day races and the Classic E3 Saxo Bank in 2015.
- Gold in the Commonwealth Games Road Race in 2014, and a Time-Trial Bronze in 2022.
Records And Awards
As well as his wins, Geraint Thomas also holds a slew of world records other achievements.
- First Welshman and the third-ever British cyclist to win the Tour de France.
- Six successive Team Pursuit world records: three in 2008, and a further three in 2012.
- BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2018, BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year in 2014 and 2018.
- Awarded MBE in 2009 and OBE in 2019.