It could have been a lot worse for Geraint Thomas. In the past, after all, it often has been. Amid the litany of crashes that have punctuated his relationship with the Tour de France over the years, his fall 1,500 metres from the finish of stage 1 in Brussels will likely go down as a mere footnote.
Yet while Thomas reported no lasting injury from the incident, it will have at least one, short-term impact on his race. The Welshman lost no time in the crash as it took place inside the final 3km, but his eventual 111th-place finish on the stage helped to ensure that Team Ineos lie at the bottom of the team classification after the opening day.
The British outfit will thus be the first squad to roll down the start ramp in Sunday's team time trial in Brussels, meaning that Thomas, Egan Bernal et al must tackle the 27.6km test without any time splits from their rivals to aim at. In the grand scheme of things, it is an inconvenience rather than an impediment, an annoyance rather than a setback. A marginal loss, so to speak.
"It's a big day, a team trial, so hopefully we can all rest up tonight and then give it a good go tomorrow," Thomas said on arriving at the Ineos bus after stage 1. "Obviously, we'll go 100 per cent tomorrow and try to win the stage, obviously. But there's a lot of other good teams so we'll see what we can do."
Thomas thought he had managed to avoid the crash that ended the challenge of pre-stage favourite Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) with a little over a kilometre to race, but he was gradually squeezed to the side of the road and was thrown from his bike after clipping the foot of a crash barrier.
The fraught opening stage was won by Groenewegen's teammate Mike Teunissen, while Critérium du Dauphiné winner Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) was a faller in a separate incident with 17km remaining. Like Thomas, the Dane lost no time but did visit the mobile x-ray truck after the finish to have his injuries assessed.
There was an air of déjà vu for Thomas, who completed the 2013 Tour after suffering a microfracture to his pelvis in a crash on the opening stage in Corsica, but he remounted quickly here and insisted afterwards that he had not sustained any lasting injury in the incident.
"Yeah, I'm fine. We were through 3k to go so we were slowly drifting back just to try to get a bit of space if there was a crash and obviously… yeah. We avoided it but we just ran out of road," Thomas said. "That happens, because the barriers were sticking out as well – typical – but I'm fine though. I was going pretty slow by the time I hit them, so I just toppled over. So yeah, it's all good."
Thomas' build-up to July was hindered by the crash that forced him to abandon the Tour de Suisse, while his Grand Tour career has been beset by ill fortune, most notably in 2017, when he abandoned both the Giro d'Italia and Tour as a result of heavy crashes at the end of the opening week.
"Like I say, I gave myself enough space and avoided the actual crash but with the barriers there was nowhere to go," Thomas said. "It's just one of those things. The main thing is that it didn't do any damage. The bike took the hit and then I just toppled over."
The team classification is based on the times of each squad's top three finishers each day. On stage 1, with all teams locked on the same time, the aggregate placings of Ineos' three highest finishers – Gianni Moscon (80th), Egan Bernal (81st) and Thomas (111th) – means that they are last in the standings after the opening stage and thus first down the start ramp on Sunday.
"I'm happy to get it out of the way. One down, twenty to go," Thomas said of his first day with the number 1 dossard of defending champion on his back. "I think it was just good to just get back in the groove with the boys. We were riding well together, we were always at the front, communication was good, and I think we started on the front foot. We'll try and just continue that."
2019 Tour de France stage 2 TTT - start times
|3||Astana Pro Team||14:40:00|
|5||AG2R La Mondiale||14:50:00|
|7||Total Direct Energie||15:00:00|
|12||Cofidis Solutions Credits||15:25:00|
|19||EF Education First||16:00:00|
|21||Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team||16:10:00|
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