A sign of how well Geraint Thomas is riding this Tour de France is that he thought it was a shame they didn’t ride faster up Alpe d’Huez and solidify his third place on the GC podium.
With Romain Bardet falling off the pace in the final blow to French hopes for something to celebrate this Bastille Day, Thomas leapfrogged the Francophone and still sits four seconds behind Tadej Pogačar and 2:22 behind Jonas Vingegaard after the trio finished together at the top of the climb where he won in 2018.
“They’re good, aren’t they? Little whippersnappers,” Thomas said after the finish, having let the pair attack each other in the final kilometers before calmly riding back up to them. “I don’t even attempt to kick when they go. Obviously I have to accelerate, but not at that rate. But I know they will more than likely mess around, and that’s what happened. Just kept riding, came back, but stop start. Actually felt like I had good speed in that sprint, but then Vingegaard came and it was either brake or crash, so I braked.”
Thomas shook his head at the younger rider as he crossed the line, like a parent disapproving of their child’s mistakes.
“They’re both riding really well,” he continued of the two ahead of him in GC. “When they attack they attack at 1000 watts so there’s no point trying to go with them. No-one expected Pogačar to have the day he had so you know, anything can happen in this race, it’s been such a tough race. So we try to stay positive and keep trying.”
Thomas has his game face on. This is the best he’s looked since he won the Tour four years ago. A return to Alpe d’Huez will have brought back those memories. A climb decorated with those who’ve conquered it and the Tour, a big photo of Thomas has been installed on one of the mountain walls, and Welsh flags were out in force as the riders made their way past today. A bonus was that Thomas’ father-in-law was also waiting on a hairpin to cheer him on.
Another sign of his current form is that when told he was now back on the podium, his response was if they’d ridden more quickly up the climb he would have had more of a gap, but accepts he’s in a “decent situation”.
After winning the Tour you’re never happy to settle for a podium finish. Thomas will try but seems to accept that the other two are a level above. Instead, he will wait patiently, biding his time and hoping he gets his chance.
“He looked back to himself, he had a bad day yesterday,” Thomas said of Pogačar following the Slovenian’s collapse on the Col du Granon yesterday. “He knows he overdid it yesterday on the Galibier and he was strong again.
“I’m definitely gonna try,” he said of his designs on a second yellow jersey. “Obviously, it’s a hard one when those two are so strong. As I said you’ve got to stay positive and you never know what’s round the corner.”
Ineos and Jumbo-Visma share a team hotel tonight. A couple of days ago we may have joked the two squads could have got together over a drink in the bar to concoct a plan to dump Pogačar out of yellow, but we are in a new world now.
“Primož,” Thomas called out to the Slovenian as he rode past the Welshman warming down outside. “Good job man.”
We have watched Roglič sacrifice his GC hopes for his younger teammate, and Thomas has had to watch himself as a younger rider in the same colors took his place at the head of the table in 2019. What Thomas has shown so far, and what may give some comfort to Roglič, is that there can be a way back.