Winning a week-long stage race should be a cause for celebration, not speculation. Which makes us ask: How the hell can we not love the one-week wonders?
A few weeks ago Geraint Thomas won the Criterium du Dauphine. Only the fifth British rider to do so, he’s the first Welshman to win this prestigious race in its long and storied history.
But that all seemed incidental on the day. Once he’d crossed the final finish line, arms aloft, it wasn’t too long before THE question was being asked.
“Is Thomas a bona fide Tour contender?” asked Velonews.
“Could Geraint Thomas yet prove his doubters wrong and become a Grand Tour contender?” wondered Rouleur.
It’s a big fat “no” from me. Geraint Thomas will become a Grand Tour contender when he contends for a Grand Tour. When he’s going into the final few days of a Grand Tour, high up on the GC and with a chance of staying there, that’s when he’s a Grand Tour contender. It’s the same for any other rider.
It’s a problem that has affected cycling for decades. Once the classics are over, we only see events through a Tour de France filter. No matter what else is achieved, all roads lead to France.
I’m as bad as anyone else. Once Richie Porte had the Tour de Suisse wrapped up, I didn’t take the time to look at how he’s come back from a horror crash and beat a very strong field to win in Switzerland. No, I just wondered whether he had what it takes to beat Chris Froome over three weeks.
Mind you, I wasn’t as bad as some. On the same day as Porte triumphed in Switzerland, Primoz Roglic was victorious at the Tour of Slovenia. That meant Roglic has won the last three stage races he’s contested – and that posed the question about July …
But 2018 has really been a breakthrough year for Roglic and he is the man to fear in week-long races right now. We should be focussing on that – celebrating it!– not trying to make an already competitive Tour de France feel even more competitive.
On the very day of Proglic’s and Porte’s wins, we also had a good example of how we should be doing things. Alejandro Valverde won the Route d’Occitanie. He’s now won four stage races this year. But are we asking if he can win the Tour? No – which is all the more bizarre as he is a Grand Tour winner and has been on a GT podium another seven times in his career.
Instead of talking up his Tour chances, we acknowledge Valverde for being a terrific racer and he goes to France with no pressure on his shoulders.
That is how it should be. Winning a one-week race is very different discipline to winning a Grand Tour. You need a specific skillset and your race management needs to be sharper. Winning a one-week race should be seen as an achievement, not a stepping stone to “greater” things. However, if you really believe Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic are Tour de France contenders there’s a bookmaker who will happily take your money.
Header image: ©GETTY/Velo/Tim de Waele