Geraint Thomas was being as philosophical as he could be after a crash put paid to his hopes of a stage win on the Tour de France pavé. He came down in a sizeable crash alongside Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), and rather than fighting for the win, ended up fighting his rear derailleur — and to conserve time.
"We were expecting a bit of chaos and yeah, that happened," he said through a faceful of grime at the finish. "I wasn't planning on crashing but we knew that sort of stuff can happen. It could have been a lot worse really — we only really lost time to [Tadej] Pogačar."
In the end Thomas, along with fellow Ineos Grenadiers GC rider Adam Yates, finished in the main group 13 seconds behind a dangerous-looking Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates), who had gone on a rampaging attack with Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) with around 16km to ride.
A former Classics specialist, many fans were looking to the Welshman as a potential stage winner, and he said he had been feeling good shortly before the crash on stage five.
"It was a nice feeling when I looked behind and the group was looking pretty small," he said, "and I was thinking ah we're in a good position here, we could try and do something now. And literally a few K later there was that crash. I obviously tried to avoid it but it just came right across the road and took me out," he said.
"Luckily I got straight back on the bike. Tom [Pidcock] was with me, he was really good, it's just a shame I bent my rear hanger and the gears were just up and down the last 30K more or less. It was just a case of survival.
"Vingegaard came up with two of his boys," Thomas added, "They were doing most of the pulling, which worked out better."
Deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth praised his charges' riding and said they were still in the GC fight. "They've achieved fairly well today," he said. "We're still on it, we're still there."
He added: "I think the stage was pretty much what was expected — somewhere somebody was going to lose time, not to form or condition, just to bad luck. So I think, you know, you look at Ben O'Connor [Ag2r, who finished more than four minutes down] and Roglič, they had a shocker."
He said Tadej Pogačar's impressive ride was nothing that hadn't been expected, but also highlighted the disparity between the leader and the rest of his team: "The biggest standout for me was that he was on his own for the last 10 sections," Ellingworth said. "Fair play to him, we know he's a talent — he rides the cobbles really well."
The next GC showdown is likely to be stage seven on Friday at Super Planche des Belles Filles where, in case we weren't sure already, we are likely to see exactly whose legs are in the best shape.
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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields.
Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.
A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness) are now in the past, although that doesn't stop him banging on tirelessly about "that one time" he nearly rode a 20-minute '10', and planning the big comeback that everyone knows will never actually happen.
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