“It’s not the way I wanted to get the Giro d’Italia lead, but it’s what’s happened,” was how Geraint Thomas summed up his attitude to taking command of the corsa rosa after Remco Evenepoel was forced to abandon because of COVID-19.
Speaking on the first rest day at the Giro d’Italia, the Welshman described losing “any rider in the Giro” to COVID as “a massive loss, but especially losing a World Champion Remco is a real disappointment for the race.”
Last in command at a Grand Tour when he won the Tour de France back in 2018, Thomas confirmed he has opted to break with the unwritten tradition if a previous GC leader has had to abandon for reasons beyond his or her control, the rider who inherits the top spot overall does not wear the corresponding jersey on the following day.
Instead, Thomas, who will turn 37 during this year’s Giro, said he would be wearing the pink leader’s jersey for the stage 10 start on Tuesday.
Thomas also praised the race organisation for re-introducing some anti-COVID measures, such as mask-wearing when riders are in contact with the media, saying, “I guess we need to be aware of it a lot more.”
In terms of how holding the Giro lead felt compared to when he was running second to Evenepoel, Thomas explained that it didn’t change Ineos’ attitude to the race because, he said, “We’re confident with how it’s been going, and we’ll try and keep that commitment.” But he did recognise that it would significantly change the second week of racing.
“Leading the race is a massive honour, but at the same time, it’s not the way you want to take the jersey. But it’s what’s happened, and that’s the way it is,” he said.
“I think for the race, it’s still a good thing to keep it [maglia rosa] in the race, it can’t be helped, and the race goes on.
“I’ll definitely wear it with pride. It’s the first time I’ve worn a pink jersey. But I just wish Remco well and hope he’s back soon.”
Thomas said it was hard to compare his current form with 2018 because “racing is so different, my whole build-up has definitely been different. But compared to last year”, when he ran third in the 2022 Tour, “I feel similar to that.”
“When I was away with Primož Roglič on stage 8, I produced my best-ever power for a five-minute effort, so I guess the legs are good. So I’m not too sure how well I’m going, but I’m not slowing down, that’s for sure.”
The co-leader question
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