Thomas is ready for decisive final mountain stage
Cycling Road

Thomas is ready for decisive final mountain stage

27 July 2018 / 07:41
Geraint Thomas will throw back the curtains in his Pyrenean hotel and drink in the view, knowing the next two days could define his career and establish him at the pinnacle of his sport.

Thomas is just two stages from knowing whether he will become the third British rider to win the Tour de France in seven years - a period of dominance that once seemed improbable.

It’s hard to think that 20 years ago, no British rider made it to Paris. Since Sir Bradley Wiggins won in 2012, the yellow jersey has only once left British hands, thanks to Chris Froome’s wins in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Thomas finished in the safety of the peloton during a flat 18th stage between Trie-sur-Baïse and Pau, maintaining his one minute and 59 second advantage over Dutch rival Tom Dumoulin. Fellow Brit and Team Sky rider Froome, seeking his fifth Tour win, is a further 32 seconds back.

However, it was always a case of saving energies for the two challenges to come, with nearly three weeks of toil set to be decided on Friday.

The queen stage of this year’s Tour features a hellish profile for the peloton, 200.5km between Lourdes and Laruns, that takes in vertical slogs up Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aubisque - aptly nicknamed the ‘Circle of Death’.

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Thomas knows his rivals will be poised to attack and will be seeking to protect as much of his advantage heading into Saturday’s 31km time trial.

The double Olympic champion is no slouch in these head-to-head battles with the clock, winning the national title last month.

But the penultimate stage features a spiteful profile, including an energy-sapping final climb up the 22 percent gradient Col de Pinodieta, which could be the undoing of many hopefuls within sight of the Champs-Élysées.

“We’re expecting the worst,” admitted Thomas, who has won two stages so far on this year's Tour. “We think there will be attacks straight from the start, it’s the last mountain stage and the guys will be wanting to take any opportunity they can.

“However, there is still a big time trial on Saturday. There’s a danger that someone could make a big move, gain two or three minutes, and then lose it all and more in the time trial.

"That last climb will just be down to the legs but we will just keep doing what we've been doing. It will be a big test for me but I think it's more one for the team to control it most of the day.”
Thomas will at least have the support of four-time winner Froome, who admitted he was now riding for his friend and team-mate after he lost time during Wednesday’s 17th stage, falling to third.

However, as befits a team that plans for every eventuality, there will be no complacency. It’s just a few weeks since fellow British cyclist Simon Yates took a solid advantage into the 19th stage of the Giro d’Italia and ended up losing 40 minutes on his rivals, the exertions of the days before catching up with him at the worst possible moment.

But Dumoulin will feel he needs to take at least a minute off Thomas’s advantage heading into the time trial, a discipline in which he is the reigning world champion.

All of which leaves 231km ahead of toil on the tarmac that contains more questions than answers - only the clock won’t lie.

Sportsbeat 2018