Source: Press Association Sport
25th July 2011
Photo: Thomas has won many admirers with his efforts in the Tour de France
Chris Boardman hopes Team Sky explore Geraint Thomas' potential to the full after the Welshman played a pivotal role in a ‘phenomenal' Tour de France for the British squad.
In the aftermath of Bradley Wiggins' withdrawal with a broken collarbone, Thomas thrived.
The 25-year-old from Cardiff seemed omnipresent in the first 12 days of racing, whether leading out Edvald Boasson Hagen to victory on stage six or climbing Pyrenean peak the Col du Tourmalet at the front of the field.
The Welshman's performances attracted numerous admirers before Team Sky extended his contract by three years to 2014. Boardman believes Thomas' potential should be explored to the limit and that there is every possibility the Welshman could soon challenge for overall glory in the Grand Tours.
Boardman, Olympic champion in 1992 and three-times a Tour prologue winner, told Press Association Sport: "Bradley not being here has given him a lot more opportunity to explore what he's capable of. He only has to climb a little bit better, time-trial a little bit better and suddenly he's there. He's technically and tactically very good, always where he needs to be and he reads a race very well."
Thomas was the leading light in Team Sky's debut Tour in 2010, when Wiggins was unable to follow up his fourth place in 2009, finishing a disappointing 24th.
While in the form of his life this year, Wiggins crashed out with a broken collarbone at the end of the first week and Team Sky suffered a further blow when Juan Antonio Flecha was wiped out by a television car on stage nine, although the Spaniard recovered to complete the Tour. There were highs as well as lows, though, as Team Sky recorded two stage victories - both through the prodigiously talented Norwegian Boasson Hagen - and played a prominent role almost every day.
Boardman added: "They've had bad luck but they've had a fantastic Tour. I think they've done phenomenally well. They've been involved in every breakaway, they've got two stage wins and had they had Bradley Wiggins - I don't like to speculate - but I can't believe he wouldn't have been capable of being in the leading group."
Wiggins was bidding to become the first Briton on the Tour podium before he was injured and is now set to ride in the Vuelta a Espana and road World Championships, where Thomas will likely also feature.
Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford, also performance director of British Cycling, has described Thomas as the best sprint leadout man in the world, while the Welshman is continually improving in the mountains.
There is the possibility Thomas could be seen supporting Wiggins in the mountains and sprinter Mark Cavendish - if the Manxman's long mooted move to Team Sky goes through - in 2012. But Boardman believes Thomas must be given the opportunity to develop in his own right - something he is sure Brailsford and Team Sky's other leading thinkers also recognise.
Boardman added: "The roles are starting to become defined so we're not really finding out what Geraint's capable of.
"He's been in the service of his team, which is creditable for him. I think it would be a shame if he didn't explore his full potential, but I'm sure that's not lost on any of them. You would hope he's going to be careful to make sure he isn't constantly pressed into service for somebody else and become a super domestique, which he may be happy with, but I think it would be a real shame."