Geraint Thomas pulled back another five seconds on race leader Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) during Friday’s stage of the Tour de Suisse, further boosting his chances of snatching overall victory in Sunday’s decisive time trial around Bern.
The Welshman is now just 37 seconds behind Pinot and is hoping that his time trial skills will allow him to pull back enough time during the hilly 38km time trial. Pinot, on the contrary, is worried that he no longer has a big enough gap to hold onto the yellow jersey.
Thomas managed to limit his losses to the Frenchmen on the tough mountain finish on the Rettenbachferner glacier on Wednesday, setting up his shot at overall success. Pinot lost five seconds on the wet twisting finish in Biel on Thursday as he avoided a crash involving Zdenek Stybar and Julien Vermote. He then lost another five seconds on Friday after again missing the split in the peloton. Thomas made sure he was part of the 17-rider front group that finished in the same time as stage winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) but Pinot came in with a 31-rider group after struggling to hold his nerve in the high-speed hectic finishes.
"The finishes at the Tour de Suisse are always a bit 'special'," Pinot told L'Equipe. "I put myself at the head of the peloton at the end of the stage but the final kilometre was really dangerous. It was hectic and nervous and so I slipped back a bit."
Saturday’s 152km road stage covers four hilly circuits around Bern, on the same 38km loop covered in Sunday’s time trial. Pinot is hoping for a perfect day on Sunday so he can hold off Thomas and win the Tour de Suisse but his confidence appears to have been hit after losing ten seconds.
"37 seconds on Thomas isn’t a lot. I can only hope to have a great day. If I was at 100% of my form I wouldn’t be worried but I’m not on my best form yet."
Local hero Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and early race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) are expected to fight for victory in the time trial, with Dumoulin a possible outside for overall victory or a place on the final podium. He is currently seventh overall at 1:27.