Geraint Thomas: From Glasgow gold to sunny Monaco

By Gareth Rhys OwenBBC Wales Sport
Sara and Geraint Thomas
Geraint Thomas and his bride-to-be Sara had rugby fans in mind when picking their wedding date

There could hardly be a greater contrast; from the rain-soaked roads of Glasgow to the sunny boulevards of Monaco.

Sitting on the balcony of a 15th-floor apartment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea a fortnight on from that Glaswegian drama, Geraint Thomas is still coming to terms with his Commonwealth Games gold medal.

"I still pinch myself... I still feel like that kid down in Maindy [cycling club in Cardiff]. It's nuts!"

In an interview for BBC Sport Wales TV, the Cardiff-born cyclist says 2014 has seen a change in how he approaches his career.

"I think this year, I've really started looking at myself and trying to win races for myself," said the 28-year-old.

The Team Sky rider recently signed a two-year contract extension after assurances he would be given a prominent leadership role and says this was crucial to his decision.

"That was the main part of the discussion. The wage and stuff like that was all secondary. It was about having my own chances," he said.

Now living in Monaco with his fiancee Sara, the couple count 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome, fellow Team Sky rider Richie Porte and a number of Australian pro-riders as neighbours with a team base just up the road.

"It's not a bad place to live. There's plenty of nice hills around you're only going to improve. Mind you it is a different world, it's like Disneyland or a big holiday resort; everything's clean and there's always something to do," he said.

Jack Bauer, Geraint Thomas and Scott Thwaites
Geraint Thomas beat New Zealand's Jack Bauer and Scott Thwaites of England in the road race

"It certainly keeps me grounded being in a place like this. I'm definitely bottom of the food chain here - one of the ants running around."

As we wait for what seems like a lifetime for the lift to take us to street level, a neighbour steps out of his door on his daily pilgrimage to the recycle room.

"Congrats on your gold," he utters as he shuffles past us apologetically.

Thomas, sounding bashful, shrugs and thanks the man.

Thomas might be modest when it comes to his success, but it was pride and bloody mindedness that led him to take a punt on the Commonwealth Games.

Having covered 3,400km of French (and Yorkshire and London) tarmac during Le Tour, he arrived in Glasgow exhausted.

A bronze in the time trial suggested his legs were stronger than he thought, but doubts crept in during the early stages of the 168km road race.

"The race started and I felt terrible. I thought to myself: 'I'm not going to be able to finish this,' he recalled.

Glasgow 2014: Wales' Geraint Thomas wins road race gold

"Then all of a sudden, with three plays to go, I followed an attack and felt great. Everyone came down to my level."

But the race was not without drama; with just 6km to go, Thomas suffered a puncture but a quick tyre change meant he still finished the race with a 20-second lead.

"Obviously the puncture wasn't ideal but I guess in the end it added to the excitement," he said.

Thomas has not been back to Wales since the Games and has been dependent on his fiancee's insight on the cultural significance of his victory.

"The response was massive, more than any race he's ever done, even the Olympics. I've even had friends' mums texting me about it. Even the air stewardess the next day and that never happens," said Sara.

With the 2018 Games in Australia scheduled for springtime, it's unlikely Thomas will be able to defend his gold and Glasgow could well be seen as the beginning of a new chapter in his career.

As well as planning his own career path, there is also the small matter of a 2015 wedding to organise.

However, an October date did pose a few problems.

Geraint Thomas riding for Team Sky
Thomas's cycling career started at the age of 10 with the Maindy Flyers

"It's the same time as the rugby World Cup and we didn't want to be the couple who forced people to miss Wales against Australia," said Sara.

For Thomas, the prospect of getting down on one knee gave him more nerves than the London 2012 Olympics final.

"I was properly nervous and didn't plan it well because it was in a place full of people," he said.

With his future mapped out both on and off the bike, there is one final decision to be made as the lift reaches ground level.

Branded from head to toe in Team Sky colours (compulsory whenever he is on a training ride), he pushes his bike out through the lobby.

"Where will you head to?" I ask him.

"Not sure. I'll get to the top of the hill overlooking Monaco and make my mind up then. I might turn left and go to France, but I'll probably turn right to Italy this afternoon."

Life is full of tough choices.

Watch the full interview on Sport Wales at 19:00 BST on BBC Two Wales on Friday, 22 August and afterwards on iPlayer.