The cyclist talks yellow jerseys, biking boredom and Mr Bean
Hi Geraint, where in the world are you?
I’m in Monaco, actually. It’s one of my mate’s birthdays today – Wout [Poels]. He’s a teammate. He’s based here.
Sounds fun. So, better late than never: congrats on winning the 2018 Tour de France.
Cheers. It’s still a bit surreal to be honest. It’s something you dream of for so long, and then for it to actually happen…
At the start of the race, the plan had been for you to help your teammate Chris Froome win, but then you took – and kept – the yellow jersey. Did your friendship make that awkward?
I think it [made it] easier. We were honest with each other. There were no egos. Obviously he wanted to get his fifth Tour de France win. But it wasn’t ever awkward, and that’s all down to him. I’ve got a lot of respect for him for being so good about it, because it must’ve been tough. And I think it’s even worse when it’s your teammate – who sits opposite you on the bus, opposite you at dinner and breakfast – who’s got that jersey.
He’d won four of the previous five Tours – did it not feel like you were wearing something that belonged to him?
It was a little bit strange, yeah, because I’d been there for all four [of his wins]. You kind of get used to him being the leader and wearing that jersey, and suddenly it was me. I was a bit shy with it. You don’t want to flaunt it in his face.
You must’ve loved every second that you were in that yellow jersey.
At the end of the day, I’m still a fan. I love cycling. I’ve grown up wanting to be the best in it, watching it as a kid, all those dreams… I wanted to let myself get all emotional and enjoy it, but at the same time I thought, “No, just keep thinking about the process.” And then once it was all over, that’s when it hit me and I started crying.
That sudden release must’ve been overwhelming.
It was similar to my wedding. When I walked into the church for the first time, two of [my wife] Sara’s cousins were singing – because they were going to be singing during the service – and suddenly it dawned on me how special a day it was, and I started welling up and crying. It was a similar thing with the Tour. Suddenly it hits me: I’ve just done what I’ve dreamt of since I started watching cycling at 10 years old.
Your Tour almost came a cropper when a spectator tried to pull you off your bike, mid-race – that must’ve been terrifying.
I didn’t really know what was happening at the time. I thought it was maybe an over-exuberant fan waving and cheering and [he accidentally] hit me. It was only afterwards when one of my teammates showed me the picture that I saw that he was trying to grab me.
Meanwhile, Froome was punched, spat at and doused in urine by other road-side “fans” – does it bother you that your team gets such a disproportionate amount of abuse?
I think a lot of people see us as boring, because we’re so strong, so we take all the flak. Obviously you don’t want the result of the race to be affected by someone on the side of the road. You’d never get someone running up to Federer as he’s about to serve in Wimbledon. It’s just ridiculous. But I’d rather get a bit of abuse and booing and be standing on the top of the podium than for everyone to love me and be sitting on the bus having come 51st.
You spend a lot of time on your bike. Doesn’t it get boring?
It does a bit. You do struggle sometimes. When it comes to physically riding my bike, [the hours are] similar to what people do behind a desk. It’s just about trying to break up the ride. Not seeing it as one big pizza – you break it up into slices and think of “this part, then this part”. It goes a lot quicker then.
Do you ever listen to music when you’re cycling?
Yeah, when I’m alone. But a lot of the time I’m in a group so it’s a bit… well, it’s rude, innit, to have your headphones on. But we sometimes will have a speaker on the bike.
What’s the best music to get you up a bloody massive mountain?
Oh anything, really. Sometimes it’s some Dutch techno, or some hip-hop, or a bit of random African stuff. If there’s a decent beat at the same RPM as what you’re riding, it always helps.
You’ve written a book about winning the Tour. When they invariably turn it into a film, who do you think should play you?
Um, the only guy coming into my head is Rowan Atkinson. Mr Bean.
The Tour According To G: My Journey To The Yellow Jersey is out now, priced £20 (Quercus)
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