Geraint Thomas and Ineos teammates climb 3,718m-high volcano
Giro d'Italia hopeful and his teammates hike up to the summit of Mount Teide during training camp in Tenerife
© Marko Dzalo (Instagram: marko_dzalo)
Ineos Grenadiers riders and staff stand proud atop the summit of Mount Teide
The racing season may have been underway for some in Australia and Mallorca among other locations, but for many, the off-season is still going strong and, whilst training will be ramping up at an intense rhythm, there is still time for some off-the-bike activities.
We have recently seen Groupama-FDJ's David Gaudu race the ASICS SaintéLyon trail running relay event, Alpecin-Deceuninck's Mathieu van der Poel agree to complete an Ironman challenge and Ineos Grenadiers' Michał Kwiatkowski go as far as to run a marathon.
This time around, it is Kwiatkowski's teammates who have been enjoying their time off the bike - but still in the mountains - as they tackled Tenerife's Mount Teide, on foot. Just days after making his ambitions for the Giro d'Italia clear in a discussion with GCN, Geraint Thomas was joined by a handful of his colleagues as he scaled this 3,718m-high volcano for the very first time.
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That's right, after much goading from Geraint Thomas Cycling Club podcast co-host Tom Fordyce, the Welshman braved the cable car and then completed the trek to the top of Spain's highest peak. It was 13 years in the making for Thomas, who is enjoying an earlier block of training on the island than usual this season.
"It's my last rest day here so it's my last chance, and I did actually make it up," a proud Thomas told Fordyce on this week's GTCC podcast. "It was cracking, well I say cracking, there's something called calima... which is the winds blowing over the sands from Africa, making it dusty.
"This calima, a bit of a bastard, meant we couldn't quite see as much as we normally would. But it was a real nice sunny day, clear skies."
Specifically targeting both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France for the first time in his career (he crashed out of both in 2017), Thomas is full steam ahead with his season preparations. The news that the 2018 Tour de France champion would be riding 'the double' this year was revealed by the Welshman in an Ineos Grenadiers livestream last week.
Speaking to Matt Stephens over Instagram, Thomas was happy to reflect on an earlier-than-usual period of training in the sunny climate of Tenerife, having arrived in mid-January.
"We've got really nice weather, salt on the jersey and I have to remind myself it's January. Usually, the earliest I have come might have been February, but I also come here in April or May. There's six of us out here and we're enjoying it."
On Monday, Thomas and his teammates joined a few members of the team staff in trekking to the summit of the third tallest volcano in the world. Pictured at the top of Mount Teide were Jonathan Castroviejo, Thymen Arensman, Carlos Rodríguez and new signing, Tobias Foss.
Foss and Arensman are both expected to line up at the Giro d'Italia alongside Thomas, as he bids to win his second Grand Tour. For the time being, though, their minds were on the peak of Mount Teide rather than Monte Grappa and the Passo dello Stelvio, with Arensman fixing the team a permit to complete the trek from the station to the crater.
Teide National Park is a popular tourist attraction - the most visited in Europe, in fact - and many take the cable car to the station at 3,555m, but few journey to the very top of the summit, which is a further 163m higher and makes for a difficult walk. After a couple of weeks of training, however, there was to be no stopping Ineos' fleet of world-class athletes, who enjoyed sunny, albeit windy, weather conditions at the peak of the crater.
From the summit, the views stretch to the four islands of Gran Canaria, La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera, not to mention a complete panoramic outlook over the island of Tenerife. With the onset of calima, Thomas' view was stunted, and naturally, he went as far as to say there are better views in Wales.
"I'll be honest Tom," he said on the podcast, "slightly disappointed. In the crater, it just looked like something you'd see up in the Beacons, even the Beacons are more beautiful! I wanted to see bubbling hot lava. Granted, it is a dormant volcano... but you could see the smoke and sulphur, it stunk of that.
"It's been dormant for 100-odd years and it's passed its due date. I think it was passed its due date when I first came here in 2011! Luckily, I think I'll be retired by the time it decides to blow up."
First up for Thomas on his road to the Giro will be the Volta ao Algarve on 14 February, where fellow Brit Tom Pidcock will also make his season debut. Between Portugal and the Giro's Grande Partenza in Turin will be the Volta a Catalunya, a Sierra Nevada altitude camp and the Tour of the Alps.
We dare say that Thomas won't get any higher than 3,718m as he eyes up a showdown with UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogačar in May, but will he stand tall on the summit of Monte Grappa on stage 20?
For all the important information about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.