The Tour de France looked anything but funny today when Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas flew off the side of the road at high speed during the descent of the Col de Manse. Amazingly, he climbed back up the ditch with the help of a fan, raced to the finish line in Gap – and somehow kept his sense of humour.
“I feel all right for now,” Thomas explained at the finish line. “I guess my doctor will ask me my name soon. I’ll say: Chris Froome.”
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The Welshman finished the Tour with a broken hip in 2013, so maybe nobody should be surprised he collected himself, changed bikes and raced to save his sixth place overall behind leader and Sky team-mate Froome.
At the time, however, the incident appeared considerably more serious. Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) lost control and collided with Thomas, who went off the left of the road and hit the left side of his face against a lamppost.
By then, those following the front of the race had already seen Spaniard Rubén Plaza (Lampre-Merida) win the stage. The television coverage of the race behind stayed with Froome’s classification group, while viewers wondered if Thomas could possibly emerge unscathed. Then we saw him riding side by side with Wout Poels in the final kilometre, and the worst fears were unfounded.
“It was bad in the fact that I lost time,” continued Thomas. “But it’s annoying — you make the effort to get over the climb and then… I don’t understand some guys just go down the hill in one line…
“I feel alright. I head butted the wooden pole thing. Luckily, there was a barrier, which stopped me falling. I was all tangled up in the bushes and wire. Some guy pulled me up and I was all right. Some French people like us!”
Thomas’s helmet showed the scrapes of the dangerous head collision, but his humour proved he was still the same cyclist who helped Froome win the 2013 Tour.
The incident came with around six kilometres left of the 201-kilometre stage. Barguil appeared to be at fault, but after the stage he said that he was “pushed” by American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) before the right-hander.
“I couldn’t brake any more,” Barguil said. “It went so fast. I was scared because I thought I wouldn’t make the turn.
“I apologise to Thomas — it wasn’t intentional.”
The Welshman will have time to recover during the Tour’s second rest day tomorrow. Afterwards, he has to protect Froome’s lead through the Alps and on to Paris. Sky has said that it would like to try to have him alongside Froome on the Champs-Élysées podium.
“It’s a big relief, really,” said Team Sky general manager David Brailsford as he followed Thomas back to the team bus.
“He’s finished the Tour de France with a fractured pelvis before, so I’m sure it’ll take more than a knock to his head to knock him out.
“He’s Welsh. People from Wales are tough.”