COL DU TOURMALET, France (VN) — Geraint Thomas (Ineos) admits that he was “quite weak” in one of the major stages as he tries to defend his Tour de France title.
The Welsh winner of the 2018 Tour de France, faltered in the final kilometer of the Col du Tourmalet summit finish and slid behind by 36 seconds. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) firmed up his yellow jersey lead, taking 36 seconds on Thomas by placing second and moving ahead by 2:02 minutes.
“It was not the best day,” Thomas said, coming to a stop on the historic pass, 2,115 meters above sea level.
“I just didn’t feel quite on it from the start. I was quite weak.”
Thomas drifted behind a group with teammate Egan Bernal, Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Mikel Landa (Movistar), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alaphilippe and stage winner Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
“At the end, I knew I just had to pace it. I didn’t really attempt to follow when they kicked. I just thought I should ride my own pace rather than follow them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end,” Thomas added.
“It’s disappointing. I just tried to limit the damage.”
Many expected Ineos to ride high in this Tour de France even without star Chris Froome, who is home with a broken femur. The team has won the last six of seven editions. Thomas and Bernal were tipped to do well in 2019.
Instead, Alaphilippe – previously better known for one-day classics – has managed to maintain his spot on top of the overall, and even added to it today. For Thomas, he hopes he can rebound to confront his French rival tomorrow in the Pyrénées and in the Alps to come.
“We will see in the next few days. From the start I just didn’t feel great today. There’s still a lot to come, though,” said Thomas.
When asked if he could win and defend his title, he responded, “Why not?”
Team owner and Great Britain’s richest man, Jim Ratcliffe, was at the Tour to watch. Also, a group of VIPs were at the Team Ineos bus. Thomas never made it back to the bus, instead, he spent extra time at top with some riders called into anti-doping and went directly to the team’s hotel.
At the bus a few kilometers down from the pass, head sports director Nicolas Portal explained that the team must talk and understand what they will do in the coming seven days.
“We’re going think a little bit differently but first we have to talk to the guys and debrief,” Portal explained.
“What I can say now is that a lot of teams and GC leaders are in the same situation. It was good to see Movistar taking the lead and taking some responsibility, also with Groupama-FDJ.”
Portal also admits, Alaphilippe is now a serious worry if the team is to continue is winning streak in the Tour.
“At the end of the day you want to see the best rider winning the Tour and if that’s Julian it will be Julian,” he continued.
“We’ll have to see in the next few days but it’s quite a big gap.”