Over the course of last season, we ran a series of features in the Official Matchday Programme with some Arsenal-supporting London 2012 Olympic hopefuls. We continue with Great Britain cyclist Geraint Thomas...
The stars of the show for Britain at the last Olympics were undoubtedly the cycling team. They won an incredible seven gold medals in the velodrome, and one more on the road.
Among the gold medalists was Welshman Geraint Thomas - then 22 - who was part of the four-man pursuit team which set a new world record when beating Denmark in the final.
Since the 2008 Games, Arsenal fan Geraint has been made an MBE, was crowned National Road Race Champion and donned the white jersey for best young rider in the 2010 and 2011 Tour de France as part of Team Sky.
Now though, it’s all about preparing for the London Olympics, and living up to the huge expectation upon the British cyclists.
Geraint has been a Gunners fan since growing up in Cardiff, surrounded by Manchester United supporters. With British cycling enjoying something of a golden age at the moment, we spoke to him about his plans in the build-up to the 2012 Games.
One of your countrymen, Aaron Ramsey, has become a vital part of the first team…
It's always good to see as a Welshman. He grew up in Caerphilly, not far from Cardiff where I grew up. Gareth Bale actually went to my school, but of course I prefer watching Ramsey! Sam Warburton, the Welsh rugby captain, also went to my school, so they are clearly doing something right in PE lessons there!
How’s your training been going?
I finished my road season at the end of September, did the world championships which Mark Cavendish won, and now it’s good to be back on the track. I’m enjoying being back with the rest of the boys, there’s a good team spirit.
It’s getting real. I’m still doing quite a bit on the road too. I did the Tour Down Under in January, then we had a few tests on the track before a week-long stage road race in Sardinia, and another in France. The main focus has been the track though, and the road races were in there to get the workload up and build the fitness.
Why did you not compete in the Tour de France this year?
It had to be one or the other - the Tour or the Olympics, and obviously the Olympics is a once in a lifetime thing, with it being in London. So I decided to miss the Tour unfortunately, it just finished a bit too close to the Olympics. The track is so specific, and so fast - you pedal almost twice as fast on the track as you do on the road - so it’s quite a bit different. I’ve decided to give that everything, and I’ll have plenty of chances to ride the Tour in future.
There will be a lot of expectation on the British Cycling Team at the Olympics, what’s the spirit like in the team?
We’re all really excited about it. The Aussies, the Kiwis and the Russians have all stepped up and put the pressure on. So there will be no complacency, and if anything they have overtaken us as favourites. But people like myself and Ed Clancy, we won in Beijing so we know what it takes, and that can be an advantage. But there’s always pressure, it’s a big year ahead and everyone in the squad is really on their toes.
With Mark Cavendish winning the Sports Personality of the Year too, it’s a good time to be a cyclist isn’t it?
Without a doubt. The Beijing Games was so unbelievably good for us that it just blew up from there. Then Team Sky came along on the road and it has given British fans a team of their own to follow. Obviously the results of people like Chris Hoy, Cav, Brad Wiggins - that’s really helped to publicise the sport and it’s grown massively. It’s definitely a golden age for British cycling.
What events will you be competing in at the Olympics? Will you be defending gold in the team pursuit?
Yes, that will probably be the only one I will do, as they took out the individual pursuit which I also wanted to do. So I’m just going to concentrate on the one event, and try to get that gold medal which is all I want.
What’s the new velodrome like in London?
Capacity is about 6,000, which is a lot for a velodrome. I haven’t actually seen it myself yet, but I’ve heard from people who have ridden there that it’s a great venue - a nice structure and a good track. It will be a great atmosphere because it’s so enclosed.
- Rob Richardson
- Mohamed Sbihi
- Harry Martin
- Peter Waterfield
- Nathan French
- Bobby White
- Luol Deng
- Marc McCarroll
- Eric Boateng
- David Rudisha
Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 24 Jul 2012