Geraint Thomas has revealed that Tadej Pogačar sought his help in an effort to dethrone current yellow jersey wearer Jonas Vingegaard on stage 14 of the Tour de France to Mende.
The race had been aggressive from the first kilometre where Pogačar attacked. Not long after Thomas said Pogačar approached him seeking an alliance.
“On the first climb, I saw him go and I was quite a way behind. I saw Jonas not panicking, but jumping as well, but I thought ‘Nah, it’s not gonna keep riding when they’re together’ so I managed to stay in the wheels, follow some guys and work my way up, kind of how I’ve been riding the whole race basically.
“He [Pogačar] came to me and said Jumbo are struggling, they’re struggling, but I was like, ‘Yeah, but, if we all jump and it’s just GC guys, it makes no difference anyway.’ Obviously they’re having a hard day, but if he wants to jump around and make it hard for them, it’s fine by me.”
Thomas explained his decision to remain in the bunch. “If a GC guy did go up the road and Vingegaard doesn’t have teammates and he’s got to ride, then obviously [you’d get involved]… You’re looking at numbers all of the time, and the combinations, and if it is a good unit you slip and slide.”
In the end the race calmed down after the first hour and a big break was established, which would eventually contest the stage win.
When the GC group reached it Thomas was distanced on the climb, which has three consecutive kilometres of over 10% gradients, to Mende. As soon as Tadej Pogačar attacked Thomas found himself swiftly left by the Slovenian and yellow jersey wearer Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) but fought to maintain the gap to minimum, eventually crossing the line with David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 17 seconds behind the GC leading pair.
Thomas said: “It’s not necessarily my type of climb: steep and punchy, and 10 minutes or less and bang it was over. But it was solid. As I said at the start of the day, a climb like that you can have the same sort of gaps as on Alpe d’Huez sometimes.”
He added: “Days like today are some of the hardest just because your legs are feeling a lot of attacks like today, and not much control, you’re always on the pedals and I don’t what our average was but the first hour would have been super high.”
Yates hangs on
Ineos’s other GC hope Adam Yates lost a few more seconds but kept his place in he top five.
Ineos Grenadiers deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth said: “I think that Adam, without any issues prior to this race, would have been able to stay with them [Pogačar and Vingegaard] on that climb.
“He’s getting better with each day. They’re just racing, as we set out from the beginning and letting the road play out. The ambiance in the group is really good and they’re looking out for each other. I think that Adam was happy to take things up there for Geraint on that climb and then maybe another day it will be the other way around. They rode well together.”
However, the squad's third GC card, Tom Pidcock slipped a place on GC to ninth after getting distanced at the bottom of the climb and losing over a minute to the yellow jersey.
Ellingworth said: “He hardly slept the night he won that stage [12 to Alpe d’Huez] he got maybe two or three hours. This is all part of it for Tom, having the experience and the ups and downs.”
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