Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) has described his season debut at the Étoile de Bessèges as a shock to the system, but one that he very much needed as he builds towards challenging for his second Tour de France title in the summer.
Thomas finished 49th overall on GC, more than five minutes down on race winner Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), in what was the Welshman’s first competitive outing since he was forced to abandon the Giro d’Italia in early October.
“It was a shock to the system I think, but it was just what I needed, though,” said Thomas after the 10.7-kilometre time trial that brought Bessèges to a conclusion.
“There were some tough days, the kind of days when you’re suffering coming out of corners and just the punchiness of the racing gets to you.”
Prior to the first stage, Thomas had said that his objective for the race would be to help his teammates in whatever way he could and then give all he had left in the Alès TT on day five. However, the high quality of the field and the intensity of the racing over the first four days took its toll.
“I knew in the warm-up that it wasn’t going to be a good day. I attacked it from the start, but then I almost stopped and walked it up the climb. It would have been quicker if I’d run,” joked the 2018 Tour de France champion.
Thomas finished 23rd, 58 seconds behind teammate Filippo Ganna who made it two wins in two days when he took the stage with a time of 15:00. Yet, Thomas insisted he felt better for his five days at the first French stage race of the year.
“It’s been good to get a bit of racing in the legs. Coming here I’d only had one real day of efforts really, so it was always going to be a struggle,” he said.
“But I knew that this is just all part of the bigger picture. It’s just what I needed. After this I go to Haut Var hopefully and then Tirreno – and I’ll do quite a lot of training in between.”
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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