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Geraint Thomas was back in the Giro d’Italia maglia rosa for the long flat ride to Caorle, his mind on recovering and fueling for the final decisive stages in the mountains to the north rather than enjoying the ride and the views near the Venice lagoon.
Thomas and his Ineos Grenadiers teammates were able to enjoy the steady, gradual downhill ride from Pergine Valsugana because Bahrain Victorious, Movistar, Team DSM, and Astana Qazaqstan lead the chase of the break for their sprinters.
Thomas was protected by his teammates in the last hour and then eased up once inside the final three kilometres, finishing 30th, alongside other overall contenders.
“It was one of the most straightforward stages, we still had 10 mins of rain, we can’t have a day without rain,” he quipped after the stage.
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“The final was chaotic, it was pretty dodgy out there at times but luckily the boys looked after me well. I’m happy to come through it safely. The main thing was just making sure we looked after ourselves, fueled well and tried to save the legs as much as possible for a big three days.”
Thomas will celebrate his 37th birthday on Thursday, spending his day in the maglia rosa and climbing north towards the Dolomites.
Stage 18 is short for this year’s Giro d’Italia at just 161km but includes 3700 metres of climbing. The hardest climbs come in the final 36km, with the 9.6km Forcella Cibiana and then the Coi and Val di Zoldo double climb to the finish line. The climb to Coi is only 5.8km long but has a gradient of 9.7% with a final three kilometres at 10.6%.
After Thomas’ impressive climbing on the road to Monte Bondone, where he distanced Primož Roglič and gained some precious seconds on the Slovenian with João Almeida, he is hoping for a similar finale and similar outcome.
The three are still close in the overall classification. Thomas leads Almeida by 18 seconds, with Roglič at 29 seconds but far from out of the race.
“I think we go into it trying to take an opportunity, but in the right way, not getting carried away,” Thomas said, acknowledging he needs to gain more time on his rivals.
“We’ll keep riding as a unit. We have a plan and we’ll be sticking to it. But also adapt on the road because in this race, so much can happen.”
Thomas is the Grand Tour veteran of this year’s Giro d’Italia and the only Tour de France winner in the peloton. He is convinced that can be a factor as fatigue accumulates and experience becomes as important as fitness. Yet he also recognises the dangers of his young rivals.
“I guess I’ve got the confidence and belief now. I know how to do it. The team around me has also gained a lot of experience over the years,” Thomas said.
“At the same time, a young guy like João has got nothing to lose and some good years ahead of him. He can get stuck in, take risks and see what happens.”
“Both João and Primož Roglič are really dangerous. Almeida is a bit closer but other than that, both are super strong and talented riders, I won’t underestimate either of them, right to the very end of this Giro.”