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Crunch time for Ineos Grenadiers leaders in Tour de France time trial

Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) at the Tour de France
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) at the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

Richard Carapaz heads into Wednesday’s 27.2km Tour de France time trial from Changé to Laval as the best-placed Ineos Grenadiers rider in the overall standings but with Geraint Thomas almost 30 seconds down on last year’s winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), both riders will be looking to deliver standout performances.

Carapaz currently sits third on GC, 31 seconds off yellow and ahead of both Pogačar and last year’s runner-up Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). The 2019 Giro d’Italia winner came into the Tour as one of four possible cards for Ineos to play in the battle for the yellow jersey, but after crashes and time losses derailed both Richie Porte and Tao Geoghegan Hart, it’s the rider from Ecuador who currently sits at the top of the pecking order within the British team.

That could all change over the rolling 27.2km course. Thomas is, on paper, the better time triallist but he didn’t put in a high-flying ride in the time trial at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, and there are question marks over his condition after he fell and dislocated his shoulder on stage 4. The Welshman still remains a threat but according to team director Gabriel Rasch, it’s Carapaz who could surprise people on the road to Laval.

“I think that the time trial is really good for our guys,” Rasch said on Tuesday night.

“It’s a rolling time trial and it’s not super technical. It’s a good course and we’re good to go for tomorrow. It’s a good route for Richie [Carapaz]. He’s also been preparing really well, before this year, for time trialling and he’s made a step up. I think he can surprise people tomorrow.”

According to the Norwegian and former Team Sky rider, the team went and rode reconnaissance for the time trial ahead of the Tour de France. Riders road the route twice, while the entire staff and entourage were also in attendance in order to fully prepare for the first of two time trials in this year’s race.

“We went to see the course before the Tour because we knew that it was going to be very important for us. We went there with all the team directors, staff, mechanics, carers, everyone. We did the route two times and had a good look so we’re really well prepared,” Rasch added.

As for Thomas – the better time triallist on paper – stage 4 was all about recovery after a bruising day in the saddle on Monday. His race looked all but over after he came down in the same fall as Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma), and while the Dutchman left in an ambulance, Thomas was able to remount and regain contact with the peloton.

On stage 4 he made it through without incident, although he admitted that he remained in pain following his crash.

“It was OK actually. It was better than I thought it would be but it’s just sore. It got through it as best as I could and then once we got into the final I just thought, sod it, just stay with the boys and just don’t let that wheel go, and focus on that,” Thomas said at the finish.

“I feel worse now to be honest. I’m looking forward to a massage, getting ready and all that jazz with the physio is going to use on me.”

Thomas also praised his ex-teammate Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) after the British rider won his first Tour de France stage in five years.

“Good old Cav. It’s great to see him win. I was a bit surprised. I hope he doesn’t hear me say that. I thought that he had a chance but to win today is awesome for him. It’s great to see.”

Daniel Benson

Editor in Chief - Cyclingnews.