Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) has put himself in prime position to win the overall title at the Tour de Suisse after he limited his losses to new race leader Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) on the penultimate stage to Malbun in Liechtenstein.
The Welshman remains second overall after he distanced yellow jersey Jakob Fulgsang (Israel-Premier Tech) in the final kilometre of the hors categorie ascent, and he lies two seconds behind Higuita in the general classification ahead of Sunday’s concluding time trial in Vaduz.
“I’m in a good position,” Thomas said afterwards. “I think it’s all to race for tomorrow.”
With only a flat 25.6km time trial around the Liechtenstein capital to come, Thomas is now the clear favourite for overall victory. He has faced Higuita eight times against the watch over the past four seasons, coming out on top on six occasions, including in both time trials at the Tour de Romandie and in the short time trial at Itzulia Basque Country.
Thomas was defeated by Higuita, however, in the flat 32km time trial in the Volta ao Algarve in February, though the 2018 Tour de France winner was, by his own admission, still reaching for condition after recovering from shoulder surgery and COVID-19.
Fulgsang, now third overall at 19 seconds, has faced Thomas in 32 time trials over the course of his career, with the head-to-head record reading 28-4 in the Ineos rider’s favour.
Thomas had begun Saturday’s stage a second down on Fuglsang, and their Ineos and Israel-Premier Tech teams combined to keep tabs on the lead of the day’s early break, from which Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) emerged as the stage winner.
Higuita’s teammate Max Schachmann put in a rasping acceleration on the lower slopes of Malbun, but Daniel Martínez took up the reins on Thomas’ behalf shortly afterwards. The Colombian’s sustained pace-making dissuaded any further attacks and would eventually reduce the yellow jersey group to just three men – Thomas, Higuita and Fuglsang.
Higuita danced clear with 2km, while yellow jersey Fulgsang led the chase until deep into the final kilometre, when Thomas ripped past him in lone pursuit of Higuita. Thomas came home 11 seconds behind Higuita and 18 ahead of Fuglsang to remain in second overall.
“We expected a lot of attacks, really. Dani [Martínez] was incredible there; all the team was,” said Thomas, who admitted that he had almost misjudged his effort in the finale. “I just kind of went after Higuita a bit too far out. I kind of blew my tits a bit then. After such a long effort, I kind of misjudged how long 500 metres would take.”
Thomas is seeking to become the third successive Ineos rider to win the Tour de Suisse after Egan Bernal (2019) and Richard Carapaz (2021). It remains to be seen how the 36-year-old’s performance in Switzerland will alter his standing in Ineos’ internal hierarchy at the Tour de France, particularly after COVID-19 forced both Adam Yates and Tom Pidcock to withdraw from the race earlier in the week. Four teams have left the Tour de Suisse en masse after a cluster of coronavirus cases, and just 81 riders remained in the race after Saturday’s stage.
“I’ve been working hard the plan was to get to the Tour in good shape and I’m on track for that,” said Thomas, adding a little gallows humour: “I just need to avoid everyone now.”
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