As the Volta leaves the Pyrenees, and after maintaining an iron grip on the GC peloton all the way up the race’s second summit finish at Port Ainé, the British team will tackle the race’s final three stages in control of the top three places.
Thomas’ teammate Adam Yates remains in the overall lead and Richie Porte in second, with Thomas gaining a spot after João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep), previously third, faded in the last kilometre of the Port Ainé ascent.
After donning his rain jacket at the finish, Thomas reflected that the British squad’s strategy on the climb had been straight out of their textbook approach to Grand Tours until last year when talk began of a new, different strategy for the squad, defined by Team Principal Dave Brailsford as a ‘more racing style’.
“It was a great team performance. There’s loads been said about how we’re racing different and this and that, but it’s good to have a bit of the old school and just stamp our authority on the race,” Thomas, the only rider to remain in Ineos Grenadiers from the original 2010 Team Sky lineup told, a small group of reporters.
While Jonathan Castroviejo and Luke Rowe did much of the early spade work on the 166-kilometre stage with three major mountain passes, the team’s two most visible key workers on much of the final climb, as at Vallter 2000 on Tuesday, were Rohan Dennis and Richard Carapaz.
But on this occasion, rather than Yates attacking, Thomas and Porte moved to the front in the vital last three kilometres to bring Yates home safely - and in the process shed Almeida from the leader’s group.
“It’s a great team good environment, no egos, it stands us in good stead for the rest of season,” Thomas reasoned.
He agreed that Ineos were putting on one of their most impressive team performances here.
“Yes, we’re obviously very strong, having a good early season. Yatesy [Adam Yates] was targeting UAE and Richie [Porte] always goes well here, and obviously ‘Billy’” - the team’s nickname for Carapaz, Thomas explained - “we’ve got two Richies - very good too. So that’s great.”
Regarding his own performance, Thomas said he was very satisfied because, “I’m getting better all the time, I had a slow start to the year, getting the hours in and haven’t done any efforts in training or anything, just using races to get that intensity.
“It’s going really well, I’ve been working on the diet quite a lot, earlier than normal, and I think that makes a big difference.”
When he answered with a wry smile and said ‘June’, when asked when he was aiming to peak for form, Thomas said he had been pleasantly surprised by how good his current condition was.
“These two races, Tirreno-Adriatico and here, it was more ‘it’s the start of the year, turn up, race round and help the team’,” he said explaining his strategy for the first part of the season.
“I had no thought of being in the mix, but I have been and that’s really good for morale. I’ve definitely got a good bit of head room left, so that’s encouraging.”
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