After 200 kilometres of fast racing concluded with a twisting, narrow eight-kilometre roller coaster of a finale on Thursday, Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa (Team Sky) were understandably glad to have gotten through a tricky day at the Giro d'Italia.
Stages like the uphill finish at Terme Luigiane represent days when there is a lot to lose, be it through crashes or mechanicals, and little to gain for the GC favourites, and Thomas succinctly summed up his feelings at the stage 6 finish line with a single phrase: "another day down."
"It was a typical Giro d'Italia finish, obviously it was a bit stressful and nervous but certainly not as bad as if we'd gone for the win," the Welshman commented. "But yeah, another day down."
He said his feelings during the lengthy slog along the Calabrian coastline were "pretty good. I'm just getting through, it's always a bit weird: today [stage 6] and yesterday [stage 5] you're not completely switched on like you would be on a big GC day, but the legs seem to be OK all the same."
"It was still pretty stressful because there might have been splits and so on, so everybody but was trying to at the front and super on it. But yes, we're good."
Talking to Spanish reporters a few yards away at the finish, teammate and co-leader Mikel Landa reflected that he was still feeling the pace of Wednesday's sprint stage into Messina and that he was "a bit tired after that last day, my legs feel a bit hard. But the tailwind was useful to keep up a steady pace throughout the stage, and it was good that we didn't have to do any work with the break going up the road.
"It was a hard last part, it looked like the favourites were going simply to watch each other, but right at the end, [Adam] Yates had a go when he chased down somebody [Rui Costa]." But there was precious little other GC action beyond the Yates skirmish and with Friday looking set to end in a bunch sprint and Saturday good for the breakaways, the GC contenders are still waiting to show their hands.
The Giro d'Italia's next big set piece challenge for the GC favourites will come on Sunday, with the ascent to the Blockhaus. For the next two days, therefore, for Landa, Thomas and Co. there's a lot more stress in store – and precious few rewards, beyond getting through unscathed, and a little closer to the race's key GC stages.
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