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ARENBERG, France (VN) – “We were expecting chaos, and that happened,” Geraint Thomas said by his team bus, his face dirty and eyes red with dust thrown up from the cobbles.
But the results don’t tell the full story of an eventful finale for the 2019 Tour de France champion and his team.
Hope comes before a fall
“As the race went on, I was feeling better. It was a nice feeling looking behind and the group was pretty small,” Thomas said. “I was thinking, ‘I’m in a good position here and we can try and do something now.’”
“Literally a few k later, there was that crash. Obviously, I tried to avoid it but it came right across the road and took me out.”
Thomas had not realized that fellow challenger Jack Haig was in the same crash with 30 kilometers to go. The Bahrain-Victorious rider was forced to abandon the race.
Surviving with a bent derailleur hanger
“It was just chaos from there on in, you don’t know what’s happening, you’re just trying to get to the finish,” Thomas said.
He chased back on to the Vingegaard group, helped by Ineos Grenadiers teammate Tom Pidcock, who he praised.
However, the experienced Welshman’s rear hanger was bent, so the gears were skipping up and down the block for the last 10 kilometers. As Jumbo-Visma led the pursuit of Tadej Pogačar and Jasper Stuyven, it was “a case of survival” for Thomas.
Yates happy to get through unscathed
Dani Martínez and Adam Yates finished just behind Thomas in the bunch. Having all three leaders in touch after a cobbled stage fraught with risk was a good outcome for Yates.
“I said at the beginning that as long as we get through in one piece, don’t crash and don’t lose any time, then that’s a good day,” the 29-year-old said.
“G crashed, so not a perfect day, but we didn’t lose too much time [to Pogačar]. I think we can be pretty happy with that.”
Briton best-placed of Ineos Grenadiers
Their deficit was 13 seconds to the Slovenian, who went up the road with Jasper Stuyven.
Yates is the best-placed Ineos Grenadiers rider, eighth overall, 48 seconds behind Van Aert and, more importantly, 29 seconds behind reigning champion Pogačar.
Tom Pidcock is ninth, 49 seconds down with Geraint Thomas tenth at 50 seconds and Martínez seventeenth at 1:09.
The steep ascent of La Planche des Belles Filles looms on the horizon as the race’s next significant flashpoint, coming at the end of stage 7.
“The race has really started now,” Yates added.