Coming out of the Massif Central to Albi, Team Ineos put 1:40 into its rivals. Those rivals included Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).
“It is certainly a good blow, you just got to be on it and ready to go at any moment, and that’s where we were,” Thomas said as the dust settled on stage 10. “But yeah, we race boring anyway, don’t we?”
The stage was nothing but boring. First EF Education tried to split the race, but classics team Deceuninck-Quick Step and Ineos drove the nail in the coffin for many.
When Thomas, the defending Tour champion, looked around he had big rivals Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick Step) for company.
Behind, teams including Pinot’s, were scrambling to come to terms with the situation.
“It was a really good day in the end. And we were all just committed,” Thomas continued.
“Bora were there, plenty of guys there turning. And behind you could tell they went full-on, especially on the climbs, to try to close [the gap]. And then, because they didn’t, they ran out of gas and that’s when the elastic snapped and we got such a big gap.”
Asked how big of a blow this was to those rivals that missed out, Thomas didn’t mince words.
“A big blow,” he said. “Especially on a day like today, where you’d never expect it really. It was just a positioning error from them, and then they lose over a minute and a half. A great day from our point.”
Indeed, the gains were larger than what are often seen in the mountainous stages of the Tour.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) still sits on top of the overall classification in the yellow jersey. Thomas moved to second overall, and he and his team are now solidly in control of the virtual classification. The Welshman leads that virtual GC by four seconds over his teammate Egan Bernal, by 15 over Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), 35 over Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), 52 over Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), and 1:21 over Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). Frenchman Pinot, who had been the virtual leader at the end of stage 9, fell from third overall to 11th.
“I’ve got nothing to say,” Pinot explained. “It was a shitty day.”
Most noticed the wind this morning in Saint-Flour, but few believed such gaps would open before the big mountains that come in the second and third week of the Tour de France.
“Echelons are very hard, totally mad — you have to be very concentrated, and very focussed,” Bernal explained. “I’m just very happy, it was a very special day. Today was very hard, but every day in the Tour is hard, even if there are not splits like today.”
Ineos never lost focus. Only Wout Poels and Jonathan Castroviejo failed to make the move from the team. Up front, big engines Gianni Moscon, Dylan Van Baarle, and Luke Rowe dug deep to distance Thomas’s and Bernal’s rivals.
“We were attentive,” Thomas added. “We knew it was going to be stressful and nothing might happen, but you have to be there. As it worked out, it did split and we were in perfect position. It was a really good day.”