The white jersey may have eluded Geraint Thomas at the end of stage 12, but if Tour de France organizers ASO ever decide to award garments for deadpan understatement, the Welshman had better buy himself a bigger wardrobe.
Many pundits described the Team Sky rider's 209 kilometer breakaway through the Pyrenees on Thursday as "epic". Thomas said just, "It was a great day out".
"I'm a bit sore, a bit stiff," the Welshman admitted having crossed the line in 36th position, 5:20 behind stage winner Samuel Sanchez. Thomas was one of six riders who attacked after two kilometers of the 211km stage from Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden, and, along with Frenchman Jeremy Roy (FDJ), half of a the duo which resisted the return of the main peloton until halfway up the final climb to Luz.
"We're missing Brad [Wiggins] and I wanted to get stuck into the race and keep the jersey out there. There was a chance it could have stayed away today so we got out there and gave it a good bash," Thomas said.
While his efforts couldn't lift him above sixth place in the white jersey classification, 4:31 down on new leader Arnold Jeanneson (FDJ), the 25-year-old did at least claim the Prix de la Combativité for today's 12th stage.
Thomas admitted that he was oblivious to the existence of another prize, the €5000 Prix Jacques Goddet awarded to the first rider over the Col du Tourmalet. Thomas had earlier let Française des Jeux rider Roy ride unchallenged over the Tourmalet summit.
With characteristic humour, the Welshman conceded tonight that, by wanting to conserve energy, he had committed a financially costly error.
"No wonder [Roy] went for it," Thomas said. "I'll have to have a word with [Jeremy]. I'd have gone for it if I'd known, for sure. Five thousand euros, you can do a lot with that, buy a lot of beers with that."
On the descent preceding the Tourmalet, for a few minutes, Thomas had done a passable impression of someone who had already sipped a few too many pints. Two crashes within the space of a few hundred meters threatened to derail his breakaway bid before the Olympic team pursuit champion finally regained his composure and descended safely to the foot of the Tourmalet.
"On the first one, there was something on the road and I ended up crashing. The second one was just stupid. I think I had a bit of mud on my tyres and couldn't slow down quickly enough. It looked a bit of a drop so I thought I'd better crash now before going off down there. I lost my head a bit after that. I was a bit frustrated. I got back on, they didn't really want to wait for me and it was all right in the end.
"I didn't think the time we had at the foot of Luz-Ardiden would be enough, but you've got to try," he continued. "When they caught us with seven kilometers to go I thought it wasn't too bad, but it still took me about half-an-hour to get up the bloody thing. Generally, though, I felt good on the climbs. A lot better than what I have in the past. The first week, the shorter climbs, I've been feeling good. They're my sort of thing, rather than these long things...But it's definitely moving in the right direction."
More than one commentator saw evidence in Thomas's ride today of significant potential as an overall contender in Grand Tours. Thomas, predictably, is keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground. "Maybe, you never know," he shrugged. "I'll just keep progressing the way I am and see where I get."
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