Thomas savours his moment with history in Rome

History is everywhere you look in Rome, a city steeped in its own storied past.

From the grandeur of the Colosseum to the subtler remnants of Roman brickwork outside a train station, every corner of the eternal city is a nod to its heritage.

As the setting for the final act of the Giro d’Italia, Rome was a fitting stage for Geraint Thomas on Sunday.

Having finished third, the Welshman joined champion Tadej Pogacar and runner-up Daniel Martinez on the podium in the shadow of the Colosseum, champagne corks popping in the evening sunshine.

This was a moment to savour for Thomas, who does not have many more like these left.

The 38-year-old will retire at the end of next season and has already hinted this year’s Giro could be his final Grand Tour as a team leader.

So with the end of his illustrious career coming into view, in this city with such a rich past, it is only natural to look back and take a broader, more philosophical view of things.

“It makes it all worthwhile, all that sacrifice,” Thomas told BBC Sport Wales. “You commit to it, you spend a lot of time away from home and with the diet and stuff you’re not necessarily always in the best mood when you’re at home.

“It’s a bit of a cliché but age is just a number. If you’re committed to it and do all the right things, you can continue to race at the top and I’ve proved that. The sacrifices and all that time away, when you achieve something it’s extra special.”

There is still a Tour de France to come next month and an entire campaign in 2025, though Thomas knows he is unlikely to scale the same peaks he reached earlier in his career.

And what peaks they were.

It is not long ago that the idea of a Welsh cyclist merely taking part in a Grand Tour was fanciful.

Thomas broke the mould not only by doing that but by then leading his team in several of cycling’s most prestigious races and winning the greatest of them all, the Tour de France, in 2018.

That was the pinnacle of a road career which had already yielded a truckload of victories in other stage races, one-day races and classics – and all that on top of his track achievements which included two Olympic gold medals and three World Championship titles.

Put simply, Thomas is a cycling great and a trailblazer for the sport in Wales.

After winning the Tour de France in 2018, Thomas held his country’s national flag aloft on the podium in Paris.

When he took to the Giro podium for a second successive year in Rome on Sunday, he had his four-year-old son Macs with him.

“When I won the Tour, Macs was born a year and a bit after that, and I thought it would be a shame if he never remembered me being on a bike, never mind being half decent,” Thomas said.

“But the fact he’s been on three Grand Tour podiums now is pretty special and we’ll always have those pictures. He’s at an age where hopefully he’ll remember it. It’s really nice and it makes it all worthwhile, all the sacrifice.”

After dousing the nearby spectators with champagne, Thomas turned to his son and jokingly offered him a taste, to which Macs wisely offered a vigorous shake of the head.

The sun started to set behind them, Rome’s golden hour cloaking the Colosseum in a warm glow.

In this city where history is a constant presence, Thomas could have been forgiven for wistfully looking back on his career, wondering how it has raced by so quickly.

But with Macs alongside him and his wife Sara watching from the side of the stage, Thomas could look forward to his future too.