Geraint Thomas (Ineos) has said his team-mate Egan Bernal would have taken even more time out of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) had stage 19 not been stopped early, before the summit finish climb to Tignes.
“It was a decent day, Egan’s got the yellow jersey, we planned to do what we did,” Thomas said, “we just wanted to put Alaphilippe in the red. We gained time, we would have liked to finish the stage as we would’ve gained a lot more but it is what it is, it’s the right call to stop because there was no road, but it’s just a shame.”
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However, Thomas said the decision made by race organisers was the correct one, as rider safety was more important than putting further time into their rivals.
“You definitely couldn’t have ridden down there [in the hail] and then the landslide meant we couldn’t continue at the bottom, but we had Alaphilippe on the ropes,” Thomsa said.
The defending champion went on to say despite the stage being stopped on the descent of the Col de l’Iseran helping his team’s chances of taking the yellow jersey to Paris, it harmed his own ambitions of overtaking Alaphilippe and delivering a one-two podium finish for Ineos.
“As the situation is I’m third, 28 behind Alaphilippe, obviously if we’d rode the stage yesterday I’d have more of a chance of catching him but there’s still the climb today,” Thomas said.
The Welshman said the focus now isn’t on improving his own GC position but making sure the yellow jersey remains on Bernal’s shoulders, adding that the shortened stage 20 will require a time trial-style warm-up, with fireworks expected from the start of the race.
“At the end of the day it’s not about me now, defending Egan and keeping him in the jersey. [Stage 20] is going to be short, sharp, we’re going to have to do a TT-style warm-up,” Thomas said.
After stage 19 was cancelled, Geraint Thomas had to still make his way up to Tignes for doping control, saying that fans by the side of the road were giving him and team staff abuse as they drove up.
“In the race it doesn’t bother me at all, it spurs me on, but when you’re not in the race that’s when you take it in a bit more, ‘seriously mate? it’s just a bike race’,” Thomas said.
Thomas was speaking on his podcast, ‘Watts Occurring’, usually co-hosted with team-mate Luke Rowe, although after the Ineos road captain was thrown out of the Tour following an altercation with Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) on stage 17 he was temporarily replaced by Ineos rider Wout Poels.
However, they called up Rowe during the recording, with the Welshman sharing his thoughts in the aftermath of the incident.
“From my point of view, like I said, I thought it was quite hardcore and I stand by that but at the same there’s no point now kicking up a fuss about it, what’s done is done,” Rowe said.
“I didn’t want to make a scene, you seven still have a big job to do and I didn’t want to make a big fuss. They’re the referees and when the referee makes a decision you’ve just got to deal with it. It’s just a horrible position to be in, it was pretty hard.”
Despite further bad weather threatening stage 20, which has already been reduced from 130km to 59km, the race is said to be going ahead as planned, with the summit climb to Val Thorens the final chance for GC rivals to challenge Bernal’s race lead.