Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas says there was no time for talk in the closing kilometres of stage 11 of the Tour de France, as he joined a late attack from Peter Sagan and his Tinkoff teammate Maciej Bodnar with his team leader Chris Froome.
World champion Sagan made his move from the bunch along with his teammate Bodnar with 10km remaining on the 162.5km stage to Montpellier, which had been blighted by strong crosswinds throughout the day.
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Sagan eventually went on to win the stage, with Froome taking second place six seconds ahead of the bunch, and extending his lead in the general classification to 28 seconds over second place Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) and 35 over key rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Froome managed to spot the move of Sagan having been near the front of the peloton, and quickly jumped on to the wheel of the Tinkoff pair as they moved up the road. Thomas was the last to join the move and had to work hard to make it over after the unexpected break.
“I was surprised [by the move],” Thomas said at the stage finish. “Sagan was just motoring. When Sagan and Bodnar went Froomey reacted straight away and there was a small gap and I looked behind and there was another gap, so I just thought ‘go for it’.
“It took a lot to just get on the wheel and then I just gave it everything to put as much time between Froomey and the bunch as possible.”
“All day it was stressful trying to stay at the front, keeping out of trouble and stay on any splits that occurred.”
With Sagan the fastest finisher of the four and in the green points jersey, Thomas said there weren’t any words between them, with everyone committed to just trying to keep the 20 second gap they’d earned.
For Sagan, that was keeping the other sprinters at bay, while Froome was putting more time into his GC rivals.
“Not at all, we didn’t speak,” said Thomas. “I think it was pretty obvious that everyone was going to commit and he’d [Sagan] get the stage.
“It’s not like me or Froomey are going to out-sprint him, particularly with form he’s in. Everyone just committed, we all had the same interest in staying away and that was that.
“Tinkoff just kind of went and then they went again and then you follow and just go, and that’s it there was no talking.”
With the summit finish on Mont Ventoux on stage 12 of the race now reduced to Chalet Reynard, 6km from the top, the time gained by Sky on Wednesday’s stage could prove pivotal with one less major summit finish to contest.
But Welshman Thomas says there’s still a lot of time for Froome’s rivals to come back, despite the time gained here and on stage eight after Froome’s daredevil attack on the descent of the Col de Peyresourde.
Watch: Tour de France 2016 stage 11 highlights
“Every second counts at the moment, its such a close race, whenever you can gain a bit of time why not?” Thomas added.
“Obviously it would have been hard for Froomey in the last 10k, but I think behind wasn’t exactly easy either. I think everyone was trying hard today.
“There’s a still hell of a lot of climbing to come, especially in the last week and two time trials, so for sure there’s a lot more time to be gained and lost.”