The Welshman has always been a strong team player, assisting Sky to three of its four Tour de France victories, but now speaks with greater authority when it comes to outlining his own ambitions.
On the cusp of the first WorldTour event of 2017, Thomas has surrendered his unofficial ‘get stuck in’ moniker and, while still modest, clearly backed himself more ahead of what could be a career-defining season.
The 30-year-old has been a mainstay at Sky since joining in 2010 and has demonstrated an increased comfortability with the British powerhouse. Last year he negotiated a two-year contract extension without rider agent Andrew McQuaid, dealing with principal David Brailsford directly.
“I feel like I can speak to Dave,” he said. “When it came to that point I knew I wanted to stay for numerous reasons. I thought I can do it myself, speak to Dave and thrash it out. I just felt old and wise enough to do it myself and, yeah, I was happy with what we came to.”
In-house trust has proven to be an important element of Grand Tour campaigns and Thomas has obviously developed that with his cohort. That will surely pay dividends when the Paris-Nice champion leads Sky alongside Mikel Landa at the Giro in May.
“The Giro is the main goal,” Thomas said of his season objectives. “If I was top 10 in the Giro it would be the best result I’ve had in a Grand Tour, which would be a step forward. But obviously, you want to go in and get the best result you can.
“It’s hard to put a result because there are so many other things that can affect it but I think if I have the best preparation into the Giro and give it everything then that’s a success really.”
Thomas last year took a step forward in realising his Grand Tour ambitions, approaching the season as a Plan B for Sky at the Tour de France, which ultimately never eventuated. It was nevertheless an experience that combined with being older and wiser, as he said, will surely be useful moving forward.
The dual Olympic team pursuit gold medallist will commence his season as usual in Adelaide, Australia at the Tour Down Under from Tuesday. From there, however, he will observe a race schedule and series of training camps, which he has never run with Sky before. Thomas is hopeful the gamble will pay dividends and allow him to arrive in Italy primed for a maglia rosa assault.
“The way this first part of the year is completely different to the norm is exciting but also a bit scary. It’s totally different,” he said.
Pundits already have argued that the Giro course this year is more suitable to Thomas’s strengths than that of the Tour, which he is pencilled in for again as a staple support to Chris Froome.
“It’s got 70km of TT in it, which will be good, but then obviously, it’s got about eight or so mountain stages,” he said.
“I think it’s a great opportunity, a great chance to race for myself. Initially I’ll start for GC, try and stay up there and see what I can do, but then if it did fall away I’ve still got stages to go for.”
Thomas said the well-documented controversy British Cycling and Brailsford continue to weather has not affected his morale in the lead-up to the 2017 season, despite being a proud alum of the nation’s academy programme.
“It’s kind of crazy that it’s still going on,” he said. “It’s not nice to hear because I’ve grown up in the British Cycling system, [am now at] Sky, and I feel like it’s partly mine as well. I feel a real bond with it and I know from my point of view, 100 per cent it’s always been the right way. Everything has been done super vigilant every time.
“I’ve always felt fortunate to be in that system and to have those people around me, not be someone who has had to go abroad to France and then maybe in an amateur team it’s a bit looser about morals, and trying to push other things on you,” he continued.
“But with regards to the headlines and stuff, I don’t read them. From my point of view, I’m fully concentrated on the season now, the Giro and going as best I can there.”
Thomas is set to work for sprinter Danny van Poppel as well as race title hopeful Sergio Henao at Down Under. The 19th edition is hillier than previous and may also suit Thomas, who will stay on in Adelaide for around 11 days after the event to train before joining Chris Froome at a camp in South Africa.
“There’s a lot of things to go for,” he said.