Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas struggles; Julian Alaphilippe ups Tour de France lead

Leave a comment

LA MONGIE, France (AP) — When the team of Geraint Thomas was in its pomp at the Tour de France, a time trial followed by a big mountain stage would have been playgrounds for Sky — now in new colors as Ineos — to take cycling’s greatest race by the scruff of the neck and leave everyone else fighting for second place.

Not this year.

Thomas, the defending champion, cracked on Saturday on the Tour’s first encounter with a climb to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), exposing unprecedented weaknesses in his team that has won six Tours in the past seven years.

The time trial on Friday and the climb up to the legendary Tourmalet pass on Saturday seemed primed for Thomas to reel in Julian Alaphilippe, the yellow jersey-holder from France who is setting the Tour alight with his punchy riding and determination to keep the race lead, filling French fans’ heads with dreams of a first homegrown winner since 1985.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

But instead, Thomas has seen Alaphilippe only get further and further away. In two days, the Frenchman has put 50 seconds of extra daylight between him and the Welshman. His lead — up to 2 minutes, 2 seconds — is becoming large enough to start realistically envisioning Alaphilippe in yellow in Paris next weekend as the first French winner since Bernard Hinault.

Fueling the ecstasy of delirious crowds that lined Saturday’s steep uphill finish, French rider Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14, putting him back in the picture to fight for the podium after he lost mountains of time on Stage 10.

Thomas rightly pointed out that the Tour is far from done, with six more ascents to above 2,000 meters still to come.

But his inability to stay with Pinot, Alaphilippe and other title contenders at the top of the Tourmalet — he was eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot — was a mini-earthquake for the Tour dominated by his British team since 2012 — with champions Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and, in 2018, Thomas.

“Not the best day. I just didn’t feel quite on it from the start. I was quite weak,” Thomas said.

“At the end I knew I just had to pace it. I didn’t really attempt to follow when they kicked. I just thought I should ride my own pace rather than follow them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. It’s disappointing. I just tried to limit the damage.”

Having taken cycling to a new level since 2012 with its vast budget and attention to the minutest of details, the team run by David Brailsford has been hit both by misfortune and by the inevitability that, eventually, other teams would start to close the gap.

A horror crash in training for four-time winner Froome, now recovering from career-threatening broken bones, robbed the team of its ace. Thomas’ own preparations were hampered by a crash at the Tour of Switzerland last month.

And Egan Bernal, being groomed by Brailsford to succeed Froome and Thomas, looks increasingly unable to compete for the title this year. Bernal was fifth on the Tourmalet and is fourth overall, 3 minutes behind Alaphilippe.

Pinot, now sixth overall and 3:12 behind Alaphilippe, is showing remarkable grit in bouncing back from his Stage 10 misfortune, when he was part of a group that got separated from other title contenders in crosswinds.

“I have this rage inside me, because in my opinion it was an injustice,” said Pinot, a podium finisher in 2014.

“Since the start of the Tour I had this stage in the back of my mind. The Tourmalet, it’s mythical,” said Pinot, who has three career stage wins at the Tour.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on hand at the top of the Tourmalet to see Pinot win and Alaphilippe extend his lead, gushed about the “two fantastic riders.”

“They attack and they have heart,” Macron said.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Julian Alaphilippe wins Tour de France time trial ahead of Geraint Thomas

2 Comments

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe won the lone individual time trial of the Tour de France to keep the yellow jersey after 13 stages before the three-week event hits the Pyrenees this weekend.

Alaphilippe, who was not a pre-race title contender, relegated 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas to second place by 14 seconds in Friday’s 17-mile race of truth, increasing his overall lead to 86 seconds.

“I can’t believe it,” Alaphilippe said. “OK, we don’t have the team to win the Tour de France. We don’t have a lot of climbers in [team] Deceuninck–Quick-Step for the Tour, but we ride really aggressive, and we try to win.”

Alaphilippe, 27, has a best Grand Tour finish of 33rd at last year’s Tour. Thomas said he was surprised to be beaten by the Frenchman on Friday.

“He’s certainly the favorite and the one to watch at the moment,” Thomas said of a man who would end France’s longest Tour title drought (since Bernard Hinault in 1985). “If he can keep that up, then he’ll win, but it’s a long way to go. A lot of hard stages to come.”

Thomas gained 82 seconds on perhaps his biggest rival for the title, Ineos teammate Egan Bernal. Bernal dropped from third place to fifth and out of the white jersey.

The Tour heads into the Pyrenees on Saturday with a summit finish on the famed Col du Tourmalet sure to shake up the top 10 in the overall standings.

Early in Friday’s time trial, Stage 10 winner Wout van Aert of Belgium abandoned after crashing and being taken away by ambulance with a leg injury.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Geraint Thomas caught up in another Tour de France crash; yellow jersey changes hands

Leave a comment

SAINT-ETIENNE, France (AP) — Thomas De Gendt won the eighth stage of the Tour de France after a long breakaway in the Massif Central as Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe claimed back the race leader’s yellow jersey with a well-timed move near the finish.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas was caught in a crash 15 kilometers from the end but escaped unscathed and crossed the finish line 20 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

Thomas took consolation from the fact that he was able to catch up with the speeding pack, but he was disappointed Pinot and Alaphilippe got away.

“The good thing is I had good legs to be able to (catch up),” he said. “It’s just frustrating that those two got time.”

The Frenchman finished the stage in third place in Saint-Etienne behind Thibaut Pinot.

Alaphilippe, who had lost his yellow jersey two days ago at the Planche des Belles Filles, made the most of the last of the seven climbs on the day’s program to attack alongside Pinot.

He went over the top in second position behind De Gendt and claimed five precious bonus seconds before keeping the pressure in the final kilometers leading to Saint-Etienne’s Geoffroy Guichard soccer stadium.

Thomas was slowed down by the pile-up involving Ineos teammates and did not move when Alaphilippe and Pinot went away. He finished the race safely in the pack with other Tour contenders.

It was unclear whether Thomas actually hit the ground. He had already been involved in a crash during the opening stage last week in Belgium.

De Gendt rode the whole day at the front after he moved away from the pack outside Macon, soon after the start of the 200-kilometer trek which took riders across seven short but leg-punishing climbs.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings