Leah Thomas secured her first victory for Movistar at stage 2 of the Tour de l'Ardeche on Thursday. The American said it was a special moment and that it's just the beginning of more opportunities for success to come in the seven-day race.
"It feels great. I’ve done a lot of work this year, and to be able to get onto the top step of the podium is very special. It’s great to have the support of other girls here, their encouragement is great," Thomas said.
"There’s five more stages, which means: five more opportunities for us. Also a lot of work to try and hold onto this GC spot. It was really nice and rewarding, but this is also kind of just the beginning, so I’ve not thought about it too much."
Thomas formed part of a 10-rider breakaway after the third classified ascent that also included Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) and Thalita De Jong (Bingoal Casino-Chevalmeire) along with Arlenis Sierra (A.R. Monex), Ane Santesteban (BikeExchange), Mavi Garcia (Ale BTC Ljubljana), Jeanne Korevaar (Liv Racing), Veronica Ewers (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank), Spela Kern (Massi-Tactic) and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Liv Racing).
Thomas made her winning move over the final ascent, Col du Rotisson, which peaked at 14km from the finish and took the solo victory in Beaucastel.
"I wasn’t planning on attacking that far out. Liv Racing had two riders, and they were doing a great job of attacking and counter-attacking. It became pretty tense with regards to who would work to follow them," Thomas said.
"When it seemed like the group wouldn’t be cohesive anymore, my best card was to attack from far out and try and hold it to the line. There wasn’t much planning into it, it was kind of a reaction. I just pedalled as hard as I could to the finish."
Thomas' efforts were rewarded with the overall leader's jersey that she will wear into stage 3 on Friday, a 133km race in Avignon. She holds an eight-second lead over Sierra and Deignan.
"I want to go for the GC overall and hold it for as long as I can. There’s some really hilly stages coming up and there’s some really strong climbers here. That will be quite the task, but it’s nice to be in this position," Thomas said.
"Except for those 10 riders, there’s some big gaps and room to play with against the rest of the field, and hopefully some of the other girls in the team can enjoy their opportunities so we can continue to be on the podium at the end of the stages."
Thomas signed a one-year contract to race with Movistar for 2021 after her team Equipe Paule Ka folded last fall. This year, she was selected for the team representing the US at the Olympic Games in July and at the World Championships in September.
This will be Thomas' only season with Movistar before moving over to the Trek-Segafredo team for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
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