Geraint Thomas saw his overall lead sat the Tour of the Alps cut to 13 seconds thanks to Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) picking up six seconds for his second place on stage 4 in Cles, but the Welshman promised to put up a fight on Friday's final stage over the terrible Monte Bondone, knowing he has the support of a strong Team Sky squad and excellent form as he prepares for the Giro d'Italia.
Thomas admitted he tried to have a go in the hectic, downhill sprint in Cles, but was boxed in and could only watch Pinot fight for victory ahead of him. Fortunately for Team Sky, the Frenchman was beaten by Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale), and thus was denied the maximum 10-second bonus.
If Pinot had won the sprint, the bonus would have lifted him to just nine seconds behind Thomas, and he would only have needed to win the final sprint on Friday's fifth stage. Now Pinot also needs to drop Thomas if he wants the winner's fuchsia-coloured jersey and the bragging rights before the Giro d'Italia.
"The sprint was chaotic. I was going to have a go but I got boxed in. Pinot is super strong, he's been up there every stage and so it's certainly not over. It'll be a big, big day tomorrow," Thomas warned.
"I think he can be up there in the stage tomorrow. There's a 10-second time bonus for the win, so he needs a gap but there are a lot of strong and aggressive riders that will add to the race. He's one of the strongest. The top 10 is certainly not over yet."
Thomas and Team Sky made a controlled effort during stage 4 from Bolzano to Cles. It was again a day for the climbers, with the 14.8km Passo Mendola early on and then the steep Forcella di Brez in the finale on the rolling roads through the Val di Sole apple orchards.
Sky had to work hard in the finale to bring back Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale), who was a late overall threat after he jumped across to the survivors of the early breakaway, Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF) and Swiss neo-pro Kilian Frankiny (BMC Racing).
For Thomas and Team Sky, it was another strong performance and excellent dress rehearsal for the Giro d'Italia.
"We knew it was going to be tough, but when it kicked off hard I had a super strong team to support me. Landa was great and then Phil (Deignan) and Kenny (Elissonde) came back. Ian Boswell and Pete Kennaugh had worked hard earlier, so it was a great team performance. We were under pressure but we stuck together well."
Thomas picked out Elissonde for special praise, combining his usual dry sense of humour with clear leadership skills and praise for his teammates.
"He's a great young rider. I just wish he was a little taller for when I'm sat behind him…" Thomas joked of the small Frenchman. "He never gives up, comes back and keeps trying. That's the type of rider that people love. He's a massive addition to the team."
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