Geraint Thomas: There's less respect in the peloton now

Ineos Grenadiers leader likens bunch to junior racing and says hierarchy has slipped

Clock16:09, Tuesday 13th February 2024
Geraint Thomas in the peloton during the 2024 Vuelta a España

© Tim de Waele / Velo Collection via Getty Images

Geraint Thomas in the peloton during the 2024 Vuelta a España

Ineos Grenadiers’ Welsh veteran Geraint Thomas has likened the current professional peloton to junior or under-23 racing and pointed to waning levels of respect between riders since he joined the pro ranks.

Speaking to Rob Warner and Eliot Jackson on Red Bull’s Just Ride podcast, the former Tour de France winner offered his perspective on the changes in cycling during his 18-year career, particularly the atmosphere in the bunch.

“It’s completely different. It’s kind of like as if it’s junior or under-23 racing now,” he said. “There’s less respect for each other. Everyone just goes where they want, chopping each other up, whereas before you’d fight for position but it would be a bit more calm. Whereas now it’s just bonkers.”

Thomas’ Ineos Grenadiers team used to be a commanding force in the WorldTour peloton, often controlling the front of the bunch in the biggest races, but the pecking order has become less distinct in recent years.

“That respect and that hierarchy in the peloton, it kind of was a good thing in a certain way, but now it’s just every man for himself, dog-eat-dog. You’ve got to join them, really.”

Read more: Geraint Thomas: Ineos Grenadiers has been in transition for a couple of years

In practical terms, Thomas reflected on the intensity of racing, and the lack of social interaction between riders in the bunch, no doubt adding to the lack of courtesy between teams.

“It used to be more chilled, but these days it’s basically full-on from kilometre zero, from the start until the end,” he said. “You see it as four or five hours of concentration. You used to be able to have a chat with your mates or whatever, but now you’re in the zone for four or five hours, and then you chat afterwards. That’s just the way it is.”

Speaking more widely about the changes in the peloton since he started his career, Thomas pointed to increased professionalisation and advancements in technology, nutrition and science to explain the ever-increasing level of riders.

“Especially since Covid, that accelerated it for some reason. I think the whole peloton is just more professional, whereas in the past it was just the top 40, 50 guys, but now 300 guys are training properly, eating properly, doing altitude training. The whole team are looking after all their riders rather than just the top three or four, so the depth is a lot better.

“The sport’s just moving on all the time, which is good, but as a more experienced guy you’ve just got to adapt with it. If I was stuck in thinking ‘this is what I did 10 years ago’ then I wouldn’t be able to compete with it, you have to roll with it.”

Read more: Chris Froome hesitant to say today's top riders are much faster than those in the past

Reflecting on his own career and progression to the top, Thomas noted how different the process is for younger riders these days, in an era that sees riders like the 37-year-old battling against teenagers and riders in their early 20s in the biggest races of the year.

“That’s a bit old school now, progressing slowly,” he said. “These days they come in at 21 and win the bloody thing, which is annoying.”

That said, he was quick to clarify that he has no ill-will towards the younger ranks, and enjoys adapting to keep up with the top, saying he wouldn’t still be racing if he was stuck to the ways he used to do things.

On the topic of Remco Evenepoel — a rider Thomas has nicknamed ‘little bastard’ — the Welshman pointed out that it is all in jest, and the relationship between the pair remains positive.

“The problem is once it’s translated into Belgian or Spanish, I think they take it a bit more seriously, my humour is lost a bit on them, I don’t think they know how to take me a lot of the time.

"He’s a good kid but it’s just annoying, you know. It took me 10 years to start winning big, but everyone’s different, eh.”

Geraint Thomas will make his 2024 debut this week at the Volta ao Algarve, where he will be up against defending champion Remco Evenepoel.

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