Whisper it, but Geraint Thomas looks like he is the form which saw him win the 2018 Tour de France. The problem is that this time, he has two superstars in Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard in front of him, two men that are at least 10 years his junior as well.
On stage 12, the Ineos Grenadiers rider might not have put in an attack, but cleverly followed those of Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) to remain in contention on general classification, moving up to third overall. He put in 20 seconds on Romain Bardet (Team DSM) to leapfrog him onto the podium, and trails Pogačar by just four seconds. He might be 2-26 behind Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), but he very much is still in the conversation at this bike race.
Four years ago, when he won his maillot jaune, he won on Alpe d'Huez. It was not to be on Thursday, but it was still a good day for Ineos Grenadiers, who won through Tom Pidcock.
Seventh on the stage was not a bad result, by any stretch - it meant sure he kept pace with the race's leaders, with nine stages still to come. This Tour is not over.
"I'm feeling good; I was trying to not get carried away when they [Pogačar and Vingegaard] were jumping," Thomas said. "Ride a pace, accelerate but not too much and I felt good. I felt that I could have gone in that sprint, but yeah, unfortunately they got the elbows out a bit more."
Fortunately for him, there were no bonus seconds on the line and the 36-year-old lost no time to his rivals.
"I'm feeling stronger all the time, and I guess it's that old diesel engine that I've got now," Thomas said. "Saying that, those two guys in front of me are riding incredibly well, so that's going to be super hard, but we're definitely going to try."
He came into this Tour unclear on his role in the Ineos team, but now he is definitely its leader. Adam Yates lost just over half a minute to Thomas, Pogačar and Vingegaard, and now lies 3-44 behind the Dane, who is in the leader's jersey.
Meanwhile, Dani Martínez, the other of the two co-leaders coming into this race, has sunk on GC completely, now sitting in 46th, 1-16-54 behind the lead.
This feels like Thomas's best chance at a second Tour victory, if it was not for the two top climbers in front of him.
"I will still try to win, but it's obviously a tough ask," he said. "Vingegaard as you saw today, was covering Pogačar for fun. But nobody expected Pogačar to have a bad day yesterday, so you never know, we'll keep fighting."
If there's one thing Thomas knows how to do, it's keeping going at the Tour. The Pyrenees await.
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