Impressed by the way that Michele Scarponi had cruised past him as the Italian claimed victory on day one of the Tour of the Alps, Geraint Thomas was even more eye-catching in the way that he emulated Scarponi by taking the stage win and the leader’s fuchsia jersey in Funes on stage three.
Until a kilometre from the line, it appeared that the Welshman’s Sky teammate Mikel Landa and Ag2r’s Domenico Pozzovivo would go head-to-head for victory on the final steep ramp up to the finish. But Thomas’s blistering attack inside the flamme rouge gave Sky the numbers up front that left the diminutive Italian with little hope of glory.
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“Landa and I spoke to each other before the last climb. We both felt pretty good, so he had his chance to attack,” Thomas said of Sky’s tactics in the closing kilometres.
“That allowed me to follow in the wheels and not do too much – to bide my time. After a few attacks I knew everyone was at their limit and so I just went for it.”
Thomas admitted that he didn’t expect to get across to Landa and Pozzovivo, “but I thought I should at least try. It was a surprise to get up to them,” he said. “Then I took a few deep breaths and thought: ‘Sod it, I’ll go again.’ I didn’t expect it but it feels really nice to take the win.”
Thomas said after the first stage that having six riders on the Sky team against eight on most others wouldn’t be too much of a handicap as long as all six are in very good form. Once again they were, and he was delighted with that.
“It’s a great team here. We’re all getting along really well and can all speak English really well, so that makes a huge difference,” he said. “I think we’re in a good place. Morale is good and that’s reflected in the way that we race.
“We’ve got six really strong guys and the plan was to set a good tempo up the penultimate climb,” he continued. “Pete [Kennaugh] and Bos [Ian Boswell] did a great job there. Then we had Phil [Deignan] and Kenny [Elissonde] to ride tempo as well and set up Landa for his attack.”
Thomas revealed his late attack had been made with both the stage win and GC in mind. “I also wanted to attack to see how I was and if I got time on GC then great,” he said.
“I didn’t think about it too much. I was just racing, giving it 100 per cent. For sure it’s a huge bonus to win the stage, take the jersey and have a nice little buffer on GC over Pozzovivo and [Thibaut] Pinot.”
Looking ahead, Thomas said Sky’s plan now is straightforward. “Tomorrow is another tough day, with a lot of climbing, but we’ll try to defend the jersey all the way to the end, that’s for sure.”