Team Ineos and their two leaders, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal, were able to enjoy a relatively quiet day on stage 7 of the Tour de France on Thursday, with Thomas having lit up the race on stage 6 ahead of more possible fireworks to come on Saturday and Sunday's stages.
"It was a long day, but I guess it's better than 230km in full-on cross-winds," Thomas joked on his team's website following a flat stage from Belfort to Chalon-sur-Saône, which was won in a bunch sprint by Jumbo-Visma's Dylan Groenewegen.
"I don't think tomorrow [Saturday] will affect the GC, but it will certainly be a tough day," he said. "For sure, everyone thinks it's a breakaway day, so there will be a big fight for that. It will probably still be going by the time we hit the first climb. It's going to be a hard start for sure. It may settle down and the break might go then. It depends on numbers. I think the next two days will certainly be tough.
"Yesterday [stage 6 to La Planche des Belles Filles], I didn't really know what to expect going in there, but I felt good," continued Thomas, who finished as the best of the overall contenders for this year's Tour after an acceleration in the last couple of hundred metres of the climb. "It was nice to finish ahead of all the GC guys."
Team Ineos team principal Dave Brailsford, talking on the latest Cyclingnews podcast, added that the team was keeping things in perspective at this early stage of the race, but that Thomas' aggression certainly didn't do his, or the team's, chances any harm.
"It's a fickle thing, isn't it, really?" Brailsford said of the swing towards Thomas, rather than teammate Bernal, now being considered by many as the race favourite off the back of his performance on Thursday.
"It was a very demanding effort that last minute of the race yesterday, and to be able to do what Geraint did, you've got to have good condition to be able to do that," he said.
"And he'd also have liked that last climb to have been harder; he didn't find the last climb hard at all. So I think they're all good signs, really, and I'd prefer to be in that situation than not. We know not to get over-excited, or to read too much into it, but on the other hand it was a nice performance, and gave him, and the team, actually, a lot of self belief," said Brailsford.
Hear more from both Brailsford and Thomas in our latest podcast, below, as well as from Deceuninck-QuickStep's Julian Alaphilippe, who will be doing his utmost to regain the yellow jersey on this weekend's stages in the Massif Central, having lost the race lead to Trek-Segafredo's Giulio Ciccone on La Planche des Belles Filles on Thursday.
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