The Welshman lost 35 minutes and finished at the back of the gruppetto on Saturday in Le Grand Bornand but fought back in the high Alps, staying with Ineos Grenadiers best overall hope Richard Carapaz and even setting up the Ecuadorian for a late attack on his podium rivals. Thomas eased up when the attacks came in the final kilometres and finished 19th at 9:41 with a show of pride.
An Ineos soigneur wrapped up Thomas in warm clothes and even a heated jacket but he was so tired and his hands so cold, that he was unable to pull on winter gloves for the two-kilometre run down the climb to the Ineos Grenadiers hotel. He was terribly fatigued but also proud to have fought back.
"I felt 10 times better today. I was still swinging, don't get me wrong. That was a hard start but I managed to hang in there," he said in the mixed zone post stage before heading to his hotel for a well-deserved warm shower and massage.
"Obviously, I was a lot more up for it. Not that I wasn't yesterday, but after such a poor performance, I was keen to rectify that. I had an extra coffee on the bus in the morning and had a bit more attitude, I guess."
Thomas revealed he suffered more on the descents than with the climbs.
"I was really struggling on the descents, I was giving myself a nice gap and then people were going past me," he said.
"I was then happy to sit on the back because when you can't feel your hands and can't feel your brakes, it's not nice at 60kph, especially after crashing heavily a week ago."
With Pogačar so dominant and again able to ride away from his rivals, including Carapaz, Ineos Grenadiers did what they could to set a high pace on the final climb to Tignes to try to shake out some of their top ten rivals. Jonathan Castroviejo did some work and then so did Thomas before Carapaz attacked. He was caught and passed by Pogačar but the move worked to some extent.
Pogačar now leads stage winner Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën) by 2:01, with Carapaz moving up to fifth at 5:33. He is battling for the podium places with Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Enric Mas (Movistar) and Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe). Other riders are spread further down the top 10 and top 20 as the mountains gradually expose the GC hierarchy.
"We tried to up the pace at the end just to try and put the other guys around Billy [Carapaz] on the back foot for him to have a go," Thomas explained.
Thomas' show of form helped make some sense of his Tour and perhaps indicated he could target a stage victory in the Pyrenees and finish the Tour in Paris.
He had perhaps been tempted to throw in the towel after losing 35 minutes on Saturday and so focus on recovering for the Tokyo Olympics and other goals. His ride on Sunday showed instead that he could be a valuable asset to helping Carapaz target a podium spot in Paris. This is his 11th Tour and he has only failed to finish in 2017 after fracturing his collarbone in a crash on stage 9.
"I've made the dilemma even worse for myself now," Thomas admitted.
"I'll sit down with the team this evening or tomorrow and we'll weigh it all up," he said, not indicating any personal preference or decision just yet.
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