Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) was briefly distanced on stage 7 of the Tour de France as the yellow jersey group nudged its way up the second-category ascent of the Signal d'Uchon. But despite losing contact just before the summit, the Welshman and 2018 Tour de France winner was able to come back and finish with his main rivals.
Stage 7 of the race was won by Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious). Thomas currently sits 13th overall, 5:29 behind race leader Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix).
The sight of Thomas losing ground on a climb before the race has even reached the Alps will hardly fill his team with confidence but the 35-year-old at least remains in contention for the overall standings, unlike Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) who conceded almost 10 minutes and has seen his hope of winning the race brought to an end.
Thomas crashed on stage 3 of the race and suffered a dislocated shoulder in the fall. It looked as though his race was over at that point but he received medical treatment on the side of the road and made it through. His time trial on stage 5 was dogged if not successful, but he remains in pain and trying to recover whilst riding what has been a relentless Grand Tour.
“We hoped that UAE [Team Emirates] would have to ride all day, which they did. Van Aert was in a great position up there and it's not every day that you see the yellow jersey in the break,” Thomas said as he described what had been a fast start to stage 7.
“It was a tough day and then obviously with the last 80 kilometres with the smaller roads, up and down, it was just racing from behind for position with some tough climbs at the end.”
While Thomas’ teammate Richard Carapaz was able to put in two significant digs on the final climb, the Welshman was forced to ride at his own pace. He lost contact with the GC riders just as the summit of the climb approached, but was able to regain his place within the group well before the finish.
When asked if he thought his struggle was the effects of his stage 3 crash, Thomas confirmed, “It was quite a big crash. It's easy to talk myself into it, 'I'm OK, blah blah blah' - it takes a lot out of you, as you can see with Roglič as well.
"I didn't want to go full, 100 per cent. I was still in contact with 200 metres to go. I just tried to pace it. It was OK in the end. I'm suffering but hopefully I'll start to feel better soon. Maybe not in the next two days. For sure I'll try to stay there or thereabouts. Obviously Billy [Carapaz] is in a good position and we'll try to use that as best we can."
Thomas stressed that he wasn’t looking for excuses at this point and that his recovery from the hard fall on stage 3 just needed time.
“It was a big old crash and it was similar to the Giro one when I dislocated my shoulder the first time. I did a good time trial the next day but then lost time the next day. At least this is better than that. I was suffering and it takes a lot out of me, too. The last two sprint days weren’t easy. I just tried to pace it today. I only lost contact with about 200m. There’s still a long way to go. I don’t want it to sound like I’m just making excuses and that, it was just a heavy crash."
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