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The brutal Pyrenean ascent was the final major mountain of this year’s Tour de France with a flat stage and a time trial left before the ceremonial finale Sunday. Thomas gave away almost three minutes to yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), but he all but cemented his place on the Paris podium with his ride.
Thomas had a mixed bag of a day that saw him surge past the leading duo of Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) on the penultimate climb, and then get spat out of the back soon after.
- Jonas Vingegaard drops Tadej Pogačar to win on Hautacam
- Tadej Pogačar crashes on descent and Jonas Vingegaard waits for him
- Geraint Thomas surprised by UAE Team Emirates push on stage 17
He was briefly caught and passed by David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) on the Hautacam and then had to stop and change bikes due to a puncture. He brought Gaudu back before dropping him and taking four seconds on him on the line.
“I felt relief that it was over. It felt like I was just going through highs and lows today, but I felt alright. When it was kicking off, I was just riding at my own pace, that’s why I just went past those boys [Vingegaard and Pogačar],” Thomas said. “I had just had enough of those attacks that they were doing.”
“On the last climb, I just wanted to stay with them until the steep bit, because that’s the faster bit, and then just ride my own pace. I struggled a bit there and then I had a bit of a bad patch.
“I had a puncture, which didn’t help, but I felt a lot better after that. Then, it was just a case of following Dani [Martínez] and he did a great job.”
Thomas goes into the final two competitive stages with a 3:05 advantage over Gaudu. While he should extend his lead over the Frenchman in the long TT, the Welshman said he didn’t want to “tempt fate”.
“We still have tomorrow, with crosswinds all day, nothing is straightforward in this race. Then there’s a TT, I’ll try to recover and get ready for that,” he said, before joking: “It’s all good prep for the Commonwealth Games.”
Thomas is now eight minutes behind Vingegaard in the overall classification but he is on course for his first podium finish since 2019, when he came second to his teammate Egan Bernal.
2018 winner Thomas praises Vingegaard
Before the stage played out, Thomas was sure that Vingegaard had what it took to take the win to Paris and spoke well of the Dane at the finish line.
“He’s been super strong, he’s ridden a great race and he’s responded to everything. You could tell that he had more in reserve. Chapeau to him,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ ride at this year’s Tour de France has been noticeable for the way that he has largely not responded to the stinging attacks from Vingegaard and Pogačar, choosing to ride tempo up the climbs.
The aggressive riding, not just from the leaders but those trying to get into the breakaway, means that this year’s Tour de France could end up being the fastest ever with the average speed currently the same as the current fastest Tour from 2005, which was 41.7kph.
“We have had a lot of tailwinds to be fair, there haven’t been many days we’ve had a headwind, but just the way that we’ve been racing it has been full gas with the breaks.”
“We’ve had two proper bunch sprints, that’s crazy. That was in Denmark, not even France. It was super hard, but luckily, I’ve been able to mix it,” Thomas said.