Geraint Thomas (Great Britain) has long tended to treat triumph and disaster with the same lightness of touch, and it was no different after he placed just shy of the podium in frustrating circumstances at the World Championships time trial in Imola on Friday.
The Welshman had to cover the 31.7km course without any information on his power or speed after his Garmin computer was misplaced before his effort. While he could draw encouragement from his eventual fourth place, just seven seconds off the podium and 37 seconds behind the unassailable Filippo Ganna (Italy), he was left to wonder what he might have achieved had he been able to guide his effort with live data.
"It was close, it's just a shame I didn't have my Garmin, so I was riding completely blind for the race – no power or distance or time – so it was a bit frustrating," Thomas said. "I think I paced it relatively well considering. It's just a shame, because it would have helped to have that in the closing stages really, especially from the left-hander to the little kicker. It keeps you so focused and dialed into it."
Thomas' expedition to Imola had been carefully calibrated to allow him to participate in the World Championships while remaining within the Ineos Grenadiers bubble ahead of the Giro d'Italia, but even the best-laid plans, it seems, are prone to human error.
He spent the minutes just before his effort on the 31.7km course scrambling to locate and fit a replacement computer to his bike, but he showed no signs of agitation when he took his place on the start ramp. He was just as equable in the mixed zone afterwards.
"I warmed up on a different bike and then I got to my race bike and it wasn't there. People were running around looking for it… No idea. Someone fucked up, but that's the way it goes," Thomas shrugged.
"I only got my race bike three minutes before the start and I was like, 'where's my Garmin?' They gave me a spare one and I was frantically pairing that. Then I went to put it on, and it was too big to fit on, so I was like, jeepers, but that's just the way it goes."
Thomas started ahead of the day's main favourites, but when he cruised through the 14.9km check point with the best time, it was clear that he was going to be among the contenders for the medals, and perhaps even the rainbow jersey itself. Only his Ineos teammates Ganna and Rohan Dennis (Australia) would beat his intermediate mark there. Thomas continued strongly after the turn, more or less breaking even with the Italian, as they raced with the wind at their backs in the second half of the course.
"I kind of wanted to go harder into the wind on the way out, as if it was to the top of a climb almost, then come back down," said Thomas. "So I was kind of treating it like that, attacking it, but obviously, without the Garmin, I wasn't too sure of how hard I was actually going.
"I tried to stay on it a bit until the kickers with about 5k to go and then attack it on the way home. I'm pretty happy with how I paced it really. But like I say, it would have been nice to have had [the Garmin]."
Thomas clocked an average speed just in excess of 52kph – not that he knew it at the time, of course – which was enough to put him in the hot seat as provisional leader, but in the final reckoning he was beaten by Ganna and nudged off the podium by Wout van Aert (Belgium) and Stefan Küng (Switzerland).
After missing out on the selection for the Tour de France, Thomas will lead Ineos Grenadiers at the Giro d'Italia, which gets underway in Palermo next Saturday. His second-place finish at Tirreno-Adriatico was a clear improvement on his travails at the Critérium du Dauphiné in August, and his performance in Imola on Friday appeared to augur well for a Giro that features no fewer than three individual time trials.
"To go so close to a medal is frustrating but that's the way it is, and at least it looks good for the Giro and the TTs there," said Thomas. "Tirreno was good and I felt like I finished that strongly, and this was a confirmation. I've obviously got the power. Putting it out on a TT bike on the flat is a lot different to going uphill, but to be able to do that is a good sign for the Giro."
Thomas is set to be joined at the Giro by both Ganna and Dennis. The trio prepared for the Worlds time trial together rather than extending their close contacts ahead of the corsa rosa by mingling with their national teams. Ganna is the favourite for the first maglia rosa in Palermo after scorching to the world TT title, while the defending champion Dennis placed just behind Thomas in fifth.
"We're staying in our Giro bubble the last few days to minimise the risk as much as we can," Thomas said. "It was a bit weird to be at Worlds having breakfast with an Italian and an Australian, but we're just good teammates, and good mates as well. It's what we do the rest of the year. Today was a good sign. I think it's a good team for the Giro."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.