After a strong but not super performance in the first mountain stage in the Volta a Catalunya, recent Paris-Nice winner Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has recognised he had not felt as strong as when he triumphed in the French stage race last week. His teammate Chris Froome, in his first race back since winning the Herald Sun Tour, fared slightly better.
Although the final ascent to La Molina arguably did not warrant its first category status in the route book, the combination of four Pyrenean ascents on the stage and very cold weather was always going to tease out even the smallest of chinks in anybody's armours.
There was snow lying on the sides of the road, it was three degrees at the finish and even colder at the top of the day's highest climb, the Col de Toses and, on top of that, the finale was a high-speed, frenetic affair that left the peloton in pieces. Thomas took 13th, in a large group of favourites 18 seconds down on stage winner Daniel Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) and is now tenth overall. He therefore remains in contention, but perhaps slightly closer to being out of the frame than he would have wanted at this point.
Speaking to Cyclingnews after the stage, Thomas said, "It was a fast tough run-in. I didn't feel great all day, maybe because of the [Sanremo] crash, maybe a bit of everything, the last week and whatever, I didn't feel like I was in Paris-Nice."
When it came to the finale, the Team Sky rider said "I was kind of pushing it and once they started jumping it was a case of trying to ride my own rhythm up to the top as best I could."
Although the weather was decidedly chilly at the finish, Thomas said that was not why he had finished further back than he would have liked. "It was pretty cold on that last descent, but it was the same for everybody. It's more just the legs."
Teammate and Sky leader Froome finished ninth in what was a solid performance for the Briton on his return to racing after nearly two months away. "It's good for Chris, it's his first race for a while and I think he's going to keep getting better all the time."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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