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LIÈGE, Belgium (AFP) — Geraint Thomas said it was a “buzz” to wear the yellow jersey he earned for the first time after the opening stage win at the Tour de France, even though he lost some skin along Sunday’s stage.
Thomas and his team leader and reigning champion Chris Froome were involved in a big crash around 30km from the finish of the second stage from Dusseldorf to Liège, but nothing could spoil the Welshman’s enjoyment at riding in, and retaining, the yellow jersey.
“It certainly was a special day to walk off the bus in yellow,” said the 31-year-old. “It was a massive buzz all day. Even though it was raining, I didn’t mind too much. The adrenaline and pride in wearing the jersey wrapped up the day.
“It was an awesome feeling, I really enjoyed it.”
Despite the crash which “took off some skin” and seeing his Sky team leader Froome, the three-time winner, forced to chase back up to the peloton, Thomas insisted there had been few moments of genuine concern.
“I was in the group with (team-mate Mikel) Landa at the time,” he said. “We were just sticking together and listening to what was happening on the radio.
“As soon we knew Froomey was ok we were happy. Obviously he had to change bikes which added to the stress for them (Froome and other team-mates).
“The race was going fast but it wasn’t full on, there wasn’t a reason to stress too much. It was all good in the end.”
While Thomas retained the yellow jersey, stage winner Marcel Kittel took possession of the green sprinters’ points jersey.
But the burly German, who claimed his 10th Tour stage victory, was pessimistic about his chances of ending world champion Peter Sagan’s five-year reign in the green jersey competition.
While all-rounder Sagan is able to pick up points in different types of stages, the pure sprinters can only do so on the flat ones.
“Of course I want to fight for it (the jersey),” he said. “In the last five or six Tours de France, Peter has always won.
“There was always a sprinter who won four stages but he had not even a small chance to go for the green jersey.
“The only way to win green is by Peter Sagan getting sick or having to leave the race by some reason, otherwise the chance is not there for the pure sprinters.”
During the last four years there has always been a dominant sprinter who won four flat stages — Kittel in 2013 and 2014, Andre Greipel in 2015 and Mark Cavendish last year.
And yet each time, Sagan has easily won the green jersey, even in 2014 and 2015 when he failed to win a single stage.
For a pure sprinter to win the jersey, as happened in the days of record six-time winner Erik Zabel, Tour organisers ASO would have to change the rules, Kittel said.
“If you want to do it more in favour of those riders, you probably have to change something.
“But it’s the jersey of ASO — they have to decide what rider type they want to see in it,” Kittel continued. “At the moment it favours a more all round rider and not a pure sprinter.”
– Murakami –
One of the other jerseys in play was the king of the mountains polkadot jersey, which was claimed by American Taylor Phinney, who is making his Tour debut, after he spent more than 200km in the day’s breakaway.
And the 27-year-old time-trial specialist, who is making his Tour debut, revealed the experience had made him feel like he was part of a novel by surrealist author Haruki Murakami.
“Honestly, I feel like I’m in some sort of strange dream — I felt that way pretty early on,” he said.
“We probably passed over a million people today. You think, ‘where am I, what are all these people doing?’
“I’ve been reading Murakami so the borderlines between dream and reality are a little blurry right now.”