The 32-year-old South African is looking forward to “an amazing three weeks” as he prepares to represent Team Dimension Data in the famous race, which starts on Saturday.
“There are not many words to describe how you feel when you receive the call to go to your first Tour de France,” he told In the Bunch.
“Nobody in the world who rides a bike will say he does not want to go to the Tour. It is a dream to be able to take part in it.”
He rode in the inaugural Adriatica Ionica Race in Italy a couple of weeks ago, but held “no high hopes” of making the cut for the 21-stage French Tour.
“It’s going to be an amazing three weeks. I want to learn as much as I can and try to also have fun while doing it.”
For Thomson it has been a five-year journey since he joined the MTB-Qhubeka WorldTour setup in 2013.
“In 2016, I did not come here because I didn’t want to miss the birth of my daughter.” (She arrived on July 11.) “This year I’ll miss her second birthday, but it should be worth it.
“It’s been a five-year process since I became part of the DiData and MTN foundation. But the dream began in 1999, before I even started riding. That was when I watched Lance Armstrong win his first Tour de France.”
Thomson, who was born in Krugersdorp, took up cycling in 2004, when he was 18 years old. He is the son of a former professional cyclist, Mike Thomson, who won several SA road and track championships in the 1970s.
“He’s always been there to support me,” Thomson said. “He watched me in all my big races; in good and bad times. My dad has been my role model in all my years on the bike. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for him,” he added.
Talking about the Tour de France, he said mental preparation was extremely important.
“You have to be prepared for good days, bad days and probably some very bad days. You just have to make most of the bad ones.
“You have to find the positives after each stage. That’s what actually gets you through the tour.
“Fortunately, I have gained experience from other Grand Tours; three-week races in which it was also important to be prepared mentally.
“I’m not sure if the Tour de France is much harder than the Vuelta or the Giro. I can’t say yet, I’ll know in three weeks.
“As professional cyclists we are already super fit. It’s your mentality that determines how you’ll get through the three weeks.”
However, he is ready to “suffer a lot” and put his body “through a lot of pain,” Thomson said
He intends playing a supporting role to Mark Cavendish and the sprint trains to help them get to the sprints “as fresh as possible”.
That includes the “mountain days”, when he hopes “to make sure they have enough food and water and are in a good position”.
To make the cut of eight riders per team (down from nine in previous years) had made his selection for the Tour even more challenging, he said.
“There had to be a fine balance between climbers, sprinters and domestiques.
“Nowadays, you need guys who can do more than one job. In our team, we are more geared around sprinting, so our objective is to have more guys to control the lead-outs,” he said.