On a flat 160km course which did not particularly suit him, the Glasgow 2014 champion made it into the day’s final selection. But with no team-mates for company, Thomas had to chase down moves, sapping his energy reserves. Thomas tried a solo attack inside the final 2km, rather than leave it to a sprint, but was himself chased down by Team England, who had three riders in the group including Fred Wright.
The south Londoner was the first to kick for home in the sprint but could not hang on with New Zealander Aaron Gate taking gold ahead of Daryl Impey (South Africa) and Finn Crockett (Scotland).
An excellent day for Scottish riders also saw Neah Evans take a surprise silver medal in the women’s race behind Australia’s Georgia Baker.
Evans is a track specialist who won Olympic silver in Tokyo last summer where she raced alongside Laura Kenny in the team pursuit. Evans won silver in the points race and bronze in the team pursuit in the velodrome last week.
“I surprised myself,” Evans said after Sunday’s 112km race. “I hadn’t done a road race in quite a few years.”
Thomas, who arrived in excellent form having just finished third at the recent Tour de France, completing the full set of podium finishes at cycling’s biggest race, was phlegmatic at the end of his final Wales appearance.
“It was hard out there,” he admitted. “It’s definitely not my sort of course. It’s real punchy, real explosive. I gave it everything. Unfortunately it was only myself up there. If we’d had another guy it definitely would have been better.
“I am not the most explosive anyway and after a lap of France I have definitely got a diesel engine now.”
Thomas added: “It’s easy to look at the Tour and say ‘You finished third in the Tour, you should be winning here because there are not many people in the Tour [competing here].’ But it’s such a different race. Compared to going up hills for two hours, this is completely flat, really punchy.”
The 36-year-old said Birmingham 2022 would “definitely” be his last Games. “I might wear it (the Welsh jersey) around Cardiff, but I am not going to make another Commies. I am proud to wear this jersey for the last time.”
Another rider who is unlikely to be around in four years’ time is Mark Cavendish. The Manxman would have been favoured to win Sunday’s race had it ended in a bunch sprint, or had he been able to make the final selection. But neither scenario played out.