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Geraint Thomas puts Giro d'Italia rivals on the limit at Tour of the Alps

Geraint Thomas had doubts about his form after a hard block of altitude training before the Tour of the Alps but he looked strong, determined and on track for to be at his best for the Giro d’Italia with a powerful late attack on the uphill finish of stage 3 to Funes. The Welshman won the stage and pulled on the leader’s jersey as a result.

Thomas explained that he again decided to throw caution to the wind and simply follow his instinct and ‘race’. He was not concerned about possible defeat in his final Giro preparation race or that teammate Mikel Landa was on the attack and up the road with Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale).

With one kilometre to go, Thomas attacked and surged across the 20-second gap to the duo. He caught his breath and then kicked again just before the left turn for the steep ramp up to the finish line. It was a show of confidence and leadership.

An equally strong Landa came back up to Thomas in sight of the line and eased up to take second before the two exchanged high fives and celebrated together. Thomas and Landa finished four seconds clear of Pozzovivo, with Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) leading in the others, including Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) at 13 seconds.

“Me and Landa spoke before the last climb. We both felt pretty good, so he had his chance to attack and that allowed me to follow in the wheels, not do too much and bide my time. After a few attacks, I knew everyone was on their limits and so I just went for it,” Thomas explained in the post-stage press conference.

“I didn’t really think I’d get across but I thought I should at least try. It was a surprise to get up to them, so I took a few deep breaths and then thought: ‘sod it, I’ll go again.’ I didn’t expect it but it feels really nice to take the win.”

Thomas’ move was audacious. It seemed calculating but he confirmed it was mostly instinctive.

“I wanted to attack to see how I was and if I got time on GC then great. I didn’t think about it too much, I was just racing, giving it 100 per cent. For sure it’s a huge bonus to win the stage, take the jersey and have a nice little buffer over Pozzovivo and Pinot,” he said.

Defend the leader’s jersey

Thanks to the stage winner’s 10-second time bonus, Thomas now leads Pozzovivo by 16 seconds, with Pinot slipping to third at 19 seconds. Two further mountain stages remain but Thomas and Team Sky are ready to defend the fuchsia-coloured leader’s jersey.

“For sure it’s another tough day tomorrow, with a lot of climbing. We’ll try to defend the jersey all the way to the end. But a lot can happen before the end,” Thomas warned.

Team Sky started the five-day Tour of the Alps with just six riders, two fewer than other teams. However, Thomas insisted that the quality of his teammates was far more important than the quantity.

“With being such a tough race, having eight strong guys who are going to be up there in front, is a massive challenge,” he pointed out.

“It’s a great team here. We’re all getting along really well and we can all speak English really well, so that makes a huge difference. I think were in a good place. Morale is good and that’s reflected in the way we race.”

“We’ve got six really strong guys and the plan was to set a good tempo up the penultimate climb. Pete (Kennaugh) and Bos (Ian Boswell) did a great job. Then we had Phil (Deignan) and Kenny (Elissonde) to ride tempo as well and set up Landa for his attack.

A Giro d’Italia contender?

Thomas’ aggressive and dominant performance left his Giro d’Italia rivals grasping for air at the finish. He clearly has something more than the likes of Pinot, Pozzovivo, Michele Scarponi (Astana) and Rohan Dennis (BMC) at the moment. Of course, Thomas knows he faces far more experienced and far more serious rivals at the Giro d’Italia and especially in the decisive mountain stages in the Italian Alps at the Giro d’Italia in a month’s time.

“The third week of the Giro d’Italia is really different. Those climbs are even harder plus you’ve done two and a half weeks of racing. It’s an unknown for me,” Thomas said, keeping his Giro ambitions in check.

“There’s a lot of other guys who have finished on the podium in Grand Tours, so for sure they’re still the favourites and I’m…. I don’t know what I am.”

“I don’t see myself as one of the favourites. Nibali has won numerous Grand Tours; he’s won all three. Quintana is Quintana and won what he’s won. Pinot has been on the podium at the Tour. Even Dumoulin and Kruijswijk have performed really well. I haven’t even been in the top 10, so it’s new territory for me but it’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

“It’s a huge compliment being considered a favourite for the Giro d’Italia but at the same time, I try not to take too much notice of it. I try the same mentally approach as when I was on the track; I try just to worry about myself and not get carried away with external things, which can throw you a bit emotionally. I try to stay clinical.”

“We’ll see how it goes. The main thing for me is to go there in the best shape possible and then race as best as I can and see what happens.”

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