When Geraint Thomas (Sky) stood dazed on the roadside after crashing at the base of the Blockhaus on Sunday afternoon, it seemed that his Giro d'Italia was over. When he reached the summit more than five minutes down, it appeared at least that his general classification challenge had ended. And now?
Any hopes of wearing the maglia rosa have long since disappeared, of course, but Thomas may have resuscitated his flickering podium challenge after placing a fine second in Tuesday's demanding time trial between Foligno and Montefalco.
Thomas posted the fastest time when he finished, though even as he soft-pedalled towards the hot seat, he was keenly aware that Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) was in the process of bettering his time. Dumoulin duly beat his mark by 49 seconds to land the stage and move into the overall lead, but Thomas was one of only three riders to finish within two minutes of the Dutchman on stage 10.
"Obviously, I'm still a bit sore but I gave it everything today and I can be happy with how I rode," Thomas said in the mixed zone after Dumoulin had relieved him of the hot seat. "I'm still feeling the effects of the crash big time and my shoulder is still sore, but I just had to put that out of my mind and go full gas and see how I was. So yeah, I can be happy with that ride."
In the general classification, Thomas climbs six places to 11th on general classification, and though his deficit to the maglia rosa has stretched out to 5:33, he gained ground on all of the overall contenders save for Dumoulin. As the Giro reaches its midpoint, Thomas is a little under three minutes off third place overall.
"I'm definitely not going to give up at the moment, although it's certainly still a long way off," Thomas said of his overall challenge. "It's not ideal what happened. Like always, I'll just keep fighting and see what I can do. There's still a long way and a lot of racing to go. I'll try to recover in the next three days and hopefully by the next mountaintop I'll feel more or less back to normal. We'll try to give it everything.
"I think after getting up after that big crash, I rode quite well on the mountain, and I think today shows that the form is still there. I wasn't 100 per cent today but to still do a decent ride was nice."
Lingering shoulder pain
Thomas dislocated his shoulder when he crashed on Sunday afternoon, but after a short pause, the race doctor popped the joint back into place and he continued. Although he reported no lasting effects during Monday's rest day, Thomas suffered further pain in his shoulder when he raised his arm to dispose of a bidon in the finale of the Montefalco time trial.
"It's one of those where you have to grit your teeth and go, and just hope the pain in the legs is more than in the arm," Thomas said. "I threw my bottle away with about eight kilometres to go and I did it with this arm. I shouldn't have done that, because I could really feel it."
Thomas' Sky teammate Mikel Landa went down in the same crash at the base of the Blockhaus and conceded over 25 minutes and all hopes of a high placing on the final haul to the line. The Basque seemed resigned to abandoning the Giro due his injuries on Sunday evening, but he was cleared to continue during the rest day, and he completed the time trial in 38th place, 4:02 down on Dumoulin.
"My legs didn't feel too bad. I felt better than yesterday. During the stage I was able to really focus on the time trial and the race again," Landa said. "It was a nice feeling."
While Landa, more than half an hour down on general classification, will, if his injuries allow it, look to hunt for stage wins in the high mountains, Thomas finds himself in a similar position to Ryder Hesjedal and Steven Kruijswijk at the same juncture of the 2015 Giro. After conceding time early on, the pair were among the chief aggressors in the second half of the race, moving to 5th and 7th overall, respectively, by the finish in Milan.
"I'm not just going to give up," Thomas said. "I've worked too hard to give up."