Before the 2019 Tour de France began, it seemed few – punters, pundits, his own team – actually believed that Geraint Thomas had won the last edition of it. Despite having the number 1 pinned to his back, the Welshman managed to successfully convince us that he shouldn’t really be considered among the favourites.
Ineos granting him no more than co-leadership added to that sense. It seemed like a sop at best, an insult to his abilities at worst. Certainly it offered support to suspicions that Thomas wasn’t capable of retaining the title. Otherwise surely his employer would have backed him outright, obliging Egan Bernal to serve as super.
The five seconds he lost to the Colombian on Monday seemed to confirmed preconceptions. It wasn’t much but then neither was the climb. If he was going to be up there, he would have been, well, up there, right?
Everyone – even he – said La Planche Des Belles Filles would not be a Geraint Thomas climb. Especially with the nose-bleedingly steep final 900 metres, Bernal was better suited to it. We all agreed about that. The best Thomas could hope to do was not lose too much time to his team-mate.
Instead he gained; pegging back the five and picking up four more. The way he did it, as well, was astonishing, remarkable, majestic. While others ground up that final slope or traversed from side to side Thomas remained in his saddle and spun. It just didn’t look that hard.
Waiting to follow Julian Alaphilippe’s attack until he was ready, then dropping his GC rivals and making his way up to the maillot jaune with ease. Despite not needing to he was able to stay with, and then pass before the line, the spindly, supremely motivated Frenchman. Alaphilippe would have dearly loved to have kept the yellow jersey on his back; Thomas just wants to be wearing it in Paris. At this point it’s looking more than possible.
We’re only six stages in. There’s still a long way to go. So much that can and will change. That said: shots fired.
The Rouleur Top Banana goes to an unsung hero of each stage of the Tour de France – not the winner, not the yellow jersey – but a rider whose efforts deserve recognition
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