Another day, another hit-out. As he and teammate Ben Swift warmed down outside the Sky bus after stage 3 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, current Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas said he was satisfied after his third - and hardest - day of racing in 2019.
Thomas lost 11 seconds to the front group of 29 riders on a nasty combination of two category 3 climbs in the hills of western Valencia and a technical, twisting, narrow finish into the tiny town of Chera. The bunch stretched into a near single file and then split almost of its own volition when there was a small crash, putting Thomas in the second group but still upbeat overall.
"It was a tough one," he told Cyclingnews, "progressively harder all day, as it normally is, and the last two climbs were hard. Swifty [Ben Swift, seventh on stage - ed.] and the boys were riding well and I was just trying to stay with them basically.
"That last climb, I was pretty much pinned where I was but I think a lot of people were like that. It was only a few people who could do anything.
"It was good, [Salvatore] Puccio had a little dig [on the last climb - ed.] and we got Swifty third into the last corner well but his legs just went in the last 100 metres. But it was a good hit-out, just what I need.
"There was a little crash, and a little split and I was behind. But if I lose ten seconds, I lose ten seconds.
"I was half-tempted just to sit up anyway, but you're kind of like 'just stay in the group'. Like I say, it's all about working hard, having a hit out and getting that rhythm and race speed. And I'm certainly getting that."
Looking ahead to Saturday's difficult summit finish, with sections of up to 18 per cent grades, Thomas, now 17th overall, recognised it would be challenging for him to be up there with the favourites.
"I don't think I'm going be there tomorrow," he said. "Not with how I am, really, it's a lot steeper, so it's one for [Alejandro] Valverde and those guys who are definitely going better at the minute.
"I'll try and do a job into the bottom and then just get up it."
As for the rumours surrounding Oleg Tinkov and his alleged interest in Sky, Thomas said that he had not even heard of the rumours before "this [Friday] morning when our press guy told me.
"I just concentrate on riding my bike and leave the rest to Dave [Brailsford] and Fran [Millar].
"If he does, I'm not bothered whoever it is, if they put enough money in to keep the team going." As for Tinkov, Thomas concluded, "And he's a character, you know?"
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