Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) put in his best performance of the season on stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico, finishing second on the Sassotetto summit finish behind stage winner Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
The result catapulted Thomas into third overall with three days remaining. Yates now leads the eight-day race from Rafa Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 16 seconds and Thomas at 39 seconds.
On stage 5, Yates attacked with around 5km to go and while race leader Michael Woods (EF Pro Cycling) was unable to follow, Thomas formed an elite chase group with Majka and Astana’s revelation of the season, Aleksandr Vlasov. The trio were unable to catch Yates before the line, with the Mitchelton-Scott climber winning by 35 seconds.
However, Thomas managed to drop Vlasov and pick up valuable bonus seconds on the line. After missing out on a spot in Ineos' Tour de France team, despite winning the race two years ago, the Welshman is building steadily towards his new 2020 goal at the Giro d’Italia.
"I was feeling good but when the guys started attacking I thought that I’d follow Woods and let him do it," Thomas said as he warmed down after stage 5.
"He’s been riding so strong that I thought that he’d close them all but he didn’t seem to quite have it today so I had to close it."
The lack of unity between Thomas, Majka, and Vlasov hampered their chase efforts, while up ahead Yates was able to maintain his pace without distraction. Had the chasing trio worked together, they might have cut into the Mitchelton-Scott rider’s advantage before the finish, but for Thomas stage 5 was nonetheless a step in the right direction.
The 34-year-old had struggled for form since racing resumed in August, finishing well down the overall standings in both the Tour de l’Ain and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Thomas noted that the lack of cooperation in the chase group behind Yates, "probably wasn’t ideal but I managed to get across, and then the three of us were just messing about. Not really me but the other two. They kept attacking each other, swinging over and then complaining that the others weren’t coming through but when you smash it on the front you can’t just expect others to just come through. If we had just ridden together then it would have been better, but that’s the way it goes."
Thomas is using Tirreno-Adriatico as a tune-up before the Giro d’Italia, which starts on October 3 in Sicily. The Welshman has started the Giro three times in his career, with his last outing coming in 2017. That year he targeted the GC but crashed out on stage 13 to Tortona due to the actions of a motorbike on the race.
His return in 2020 has been controversial after both he and Chris Froome – also racing Tirreno-Adriatico – were both left out of Ineos’ Tour team but with the Giro just a few weeks away, Thomas appears to be moving in the right direction.
"I’m pretty happy with where I am, and it shows the work that I’ve been doing and that it’s been worth it. It’s encouraging and I think that this race will do me the world of good."
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