Thomas warns of Astana threat at Paris-Nice
Sky rider holds yellow for a second day
Geraint Thomas (Sky) retained the overall lead following stage 5 of Paris-Nice but the Welshman claimed that he will be surprised if he is still in the yellow jersey after Friday's tough stage to Fayence.
Prior to stage 5, Thomas had feared that John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) might pick up the bonus seconds necessary to leapfrog him in the overall standings, but instead it was Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) who took the honours, while Thomas finished two seconds back in the chase group.
Thomas remains three seconds clear of Degenkolb on general classification, with Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) a further second back in third place, while Betancur moves up to fourth, just five seconds off yellow. However, he pointed to the Astana pair of Jakob Fuglsang (6th at 13 seconds) and Vincenzo Nibali (13th at 19 seconds) as the men to watch.
"Slagter is a real threat. He's a quick rider who can go after time bonuses," Thomas said afterwards, according to L'Équipe. "But I think Nibali and Fuglsang are the key. Astana has two good cards to play with them.
"Tomorrow's stage is long, more than 220 kilometres. You can feel good for a long time and then have a sudden low in the last hour of racing. In any case, I'd be surprised if I'm sitting here [in the press room] tomorrow talking to you."
Thomas was pleased to live another day in yellow, even if he was keen to put the race in perspective. "I'm happy to be in this situation, but it wouldn't have been the end of the world if I'd lost it," he said. "Still, it was a really nice day of racing. Paris-Nice without a time trial makes things harder to control."
Thomas was elevated to the status of Sky’s leader for Paris-Nice following the team's decision to send Richie Porte to Tirreno-Adriatico as a replacement for the injured Chris Froome. Although he is now in a position to perhaps win the Race to the Sun, Thomas said that his priority remained the Spring Classics.
"I'm putting the final touches on my preparation for the Classics," he said. "Things are going quite well in terms of Milan-San Remo coming up. I'm looking for a result in any Classic, but if I had to choose where, I'd take the Tour of Flanders. In a Classic, anything can happen."
Friday's fifth stage, from Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon to Fayence, features five categorised climbs, including the category 1 Col de Bourigaille with 20 kilometres remaining, and a category 2 climb to the finish line.
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By Josh Croxton