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ALBEROBELLO, Italy (VN) — Team Sky says that its star rider Geraint Thomas must take advantage of the time trial on Tuesday in Umbria to gain on top rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) or else “it’s a problem” for the overall.
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The race features two time trials that should tilt the overall in favor of the Welshman and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb): Tuesday’s stage 10 through the Sagratino wine hills and the last day to Milan.
“He saw the Sagrantino time trial once before Tirreno-Adriatico,” Sky sport director Dario Cioni told VeloNews. “The time trial will go well for G [Thomas]. It’ll go well for Dumoulin too; they are similar riders. It’s more for Dumoulin than Quintana, and for G, too. If G can’t gain time in that time trial on Quintana then it could be a problem.”
The time trial runs 39.8 kilometers to Montefalco. It rolls through the famous DOCG vineyards for the last 29 kilometers. The final time trial, from the Monza Formula One track to the Duomo in Milan, covers 29.3 kilometers.
“It’s clear,” said Cioni, “when we get to the final stage, if the gap is five minutes, it’s over, but if it’s under a min, it’s an open race.”
Sky gave Thomas his first chance to lead a grand tour team after he worked for Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, and he proved himself in several one-week races. He won Volta ao Algarve twice, Paris-Nice, and before the Giro in April, he won the Tour of the Alps (formerly the Giro del Trentino).
Spaniard Mikel Landa, Sky’s co-captain in the Giro, helped Thomas to the Alps win. They will make a two-pronged attack at the giro’s classification.
“Landa went a little slower the first day in Trentino, and it’s a race of seconds, the finishes were not so demanding, so the overall was going to depend on bonus seconds,” Cioni continued.
“The course was hard, though. It was important to get those seconds. Mikel [Landa] could’ve won the stage that G won, but to give him more seconds, he took second, and he also raced offensive to favor G’s attack.”
Instead of an intra-team rivalry, Sky believes the two-pronged approach is an advantage.
“Hopefully we’ll still both be there in the final week, and so much can happen then with such a hard final week,” Thomas told VeloNews. “It’ll certainly help to have two guys up there for both of us. If I don’t feel great, and I lose a chunk of time, then for sure I will start riding for Landa, and I think he will do the same for me.”
Cioni also considers Thomas able to handle himself in the Giro’s third mountainous week through the Alps.
“He has to also be able to go in the mountains, but we went well in Trentino, we showed that we were competitive,” continued Cioni. “The race wasn’t at the same level as the riders here, but Thibaut Pinot was there and the level was high.
“Can Thomas win the Giro? We are aiming to get to the end of the Giro, knowing that we didn’t make any mistakes. Then we’ll see if that’s enough for first, second, third, or fourth overall. If he gets there and knows that he gave it all, didn’t make a mistake and had his chance to be a leader. And that’s his goal, to experiment as a leader in a grand tour with Mikel. He wants to push himself all-out to know his limits.”
Landa already placed third overall while helping former Astana teammate Fabio Aru to second in 2016. Sky signed him for its Giro team in 2016, but he fell ill midway through. Now he leads with Thomas, who faces a possible career turning point.
“It’s obviously one of the biggest challenges of my career,” Thomas said. “If I’m on the podium, fantastic, great, I get paid more money! If I don’t, I’ll maybe just keep focusing on week-long races, but it’s not the end of the world.”