After lending the pink jersey to Groupama-FDJ’s Bruno Armirail following a cross-Channel agreement between the French and British, Geraint Thomas is back at the top of the Giro d’Italia’s general classification.
It hasn’t been a simple exchange. En route to taking back the maglia rosa, the Welshman lost another teammate (the Ineos Grenadiers now down to five after Pavel Sivakov was forced to abandon the race) and he’s shipped four seconds to UAE Team Emirates’ João Almeida thanks to time bonuses. Thomas now leads Almeida by 18 seconds with Primož Roglič now 29 seconds adrift.
“It would have been nice to win the stage but it’s one of them,” Thomas said post-stage. “We had to keep riding, didn’t want to play cat and mouse with Roglič behind so we worked well together. I led it out and unfortunately he had the jump on me and won the sprint. But nice to be back in pink and gain some time but it’s obviously not great to lose a teammate.”
“Pavel after he crashed with Tao has not recovered,” was the explanation provided by sports director Matteo Tosatto. “Yesterday on the rest day, the days before, he was suffering a lot, for us it’s one fewer rider but we have five riders who are super strong and I have confidence in them.”
When asked about Almeida, who originally took the race to the GC contenders, Thomas said the Portuguese rider has been one to watch since the start of the race.
“He was always one of the biggest rivals coming here and he’s shown how strong he is and his team as well,” Thomas said. “No surprise.”
The loser of the day was Primož Roglič and Jumbo-Visma, the Slovenian starting the day two seconds behind Thomas but dropped by the Ineos Grenadiers rider and Almeida and now trails the race lead by half a minute.
“It’s true, it’s not something we counted on but the situation is what it is here at the finish,” Jumbo-Visma sports director Marc Reef said at the finish. “I think the time gap in the GC is now 29 seconds, there’s still a lot to play for in the upcoming two hard days we have on Thursday and Friday.”
“He did a great job,” Reef said of super domestique Sepp Kuss. “Without him I think the time gap would have been a bit bigger but also Primož was able to do a really strong last kilometre to limit the losses like that, and with Sepp, was really great.”
While Jumbo-Visma were looking for silver linings on a day that doesn’t bode well for their final week assault on the pink jersey, Jayco-AlUla’s Irishman Eddie Dunbar, a former teammate of Geraint Thomas on Sky, was another stand-out performer, finishing alongside Roglič to rise three places on GC to fifth overall and Damiano Caruso only 13 seconds ahead in fourth.
“It’s not a victory or anything, it’s fourth place, you have to take that into account as well, but it’s a positive day,” Dunbar reflected after the finish line.
“This is all I’ve ever wanted,” he continued. “To have an opportunity in a race like this. Thankfully the team Jayco-AlUla has put belief in me and we’ve worked hard these last six months and I can just thank them for the opportunity really.”
A first of four final GC acts comes to a close. Thomas is in pink but sports director Tosatto is already ruing the seconds lost on the finish line and is also wary that this climb was maybe the most suited to his rider’s abilities.
“I’m super happy for him but disappointed for him because I think winning the stage is the best because it offers many seconds but in the end it’s a good day for us,” Tosatto said. “This team is super strong and today was the big first test. Now it’s important to recover and focus for the next mountain stage.
“He’s strong, it’s the perfect climb for him. The more important point, I repeat, the last two stages of mountains are harder climbs.”
One down. Three to go.
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