While Grand Tours are normally decided in the mountains, the GC contenders still have to navigate through the dangerous sprint stages, an art that Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) say he finds easier than most.
Thomas has so far made his way through the first week of the Giro d’Italia without incident, while the big sprinters like André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) have been fighting it out in chaotic sprint finishes.
“I follow my team-mates the most of the time, but if I have to float around and use different trains, I can do it,” Thomas told Cycling Weekly.
“If you have a team-mate, all you have to do is follow him and not switch off. You rely on him to take you around and just hold the wheel basically, and be aware of what’s happening around you.”
Thomas stood near the door of Sky’s black bus after another bunch sprint into Messina, made all the more chaotic by a sea of fans who came out to see the race visit and home star Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
The fast, nervous approach to bunch sprints has taken numerous GC casualties in past Grand Tours, such as Richie Porte who abandoned the 2015 Giro d’Italia after crashing on stage 13, and Alberto Contador who crashed and dislocated his shoulder on stage six of the same race.
However Thomas says that his experiences in races other than Grand Tours have stood him in good stead for the frantic racing in the final kilometres of a flat stage.
“Fortunately riding the Classics you are used to fighting for position. I wouldn’t say I enjoy it, but I find it a bit easier than some of the other guys,” continued Thomas.
“The ones with a lot of corners are worse, especially towards the end like on the first stage. But the more straight forward ones are better.”
Watch: Giro d’Italia stage five highlights
Riding his first Grand Tour as a leader (together with Mikel Landa) Thomas says he relies on dedicated team-mates include Vasil Kiryienka and Philip Deignan, who “are really good in the run up to the last 10km”, and Michal Golas and Salvatore Puccio for the final kilometres.
“I guess just try to take it as easy as possible and try to leave it to the boys to look after you all day and try to not get too stressed.
“If I’m on my own? You kind of know that Quick-Step boys sometimes can go quite early and be on the side of the road, and that’s always nice if you can get that wheel.
“If there’s a team on one side of the road and kind of riding that pace in the last 15K, that’s the team you want to try and get behind because it’s the smoothest and you don’t have to think too much.
“In the middle [of the road] you can get swamped quite easily and get knocked off the wheel, and when you are on one side you can hold the position a lot easier. That’s what all the sprinters teams do and that’s what I’ve done in the past with Cav.”