It’s taken more than half the Vuelta a España to happen, but after more than his fair share of crashes, injuries, punctures and off-days, on stage 11, Geraint Thomas finally put his miserable start to the race behind him as the Ineos Grenadiers leader made it into the break of the day and fought it out all the way to the finish.
Following his disastrous start, Thomas’ GC options have long been shelved, but Thomas could hardly have asked for stronger support in the 26-man move, with teammate Filippo Ganna fully committed to backing the Welshman’s bid for a first win since he captured the Tour de Suisse in 2022.
Less than 24 hours after he had crushed the opposition in the Vuelta a España time trial in Valladolid, Ganna could be seen back in the thick of the action again, hammering up the final climb of Laguna Negra de Vinuesa to try and set things up for Thomas.
A marked man in the closing kilometres by the rest of the breakaways after Ganna singlehandedly reduced the lead group from 20 to six before swinging, Thomas did his utmost to track the late moves. But if his heart and head were clearly in it, as the Welshman said afterwards, his legs were not quite where they needed to be for him to go for the win.
“We got in the break. Ideally, we wanted two of us, and me and Pippo was a good combination,” Thomas recounted after finishing fifth behind stage winner Jesus Herrada (Cofidis).
“I said to him halfway around that I wasn’t feeling great. I don’t know if the car thought I was being nervous or not confident, but I was being honest. They tried geeing me up, and Pippo really wanted to commit to me, and I really appreciated that.
“I’m just disappointed I couldn’t finish it off. I just felt that I had no real gas at the end. I was a bit limited. We gave it everything, and that’s what we had on the day.”
Thomas nonetheless said he was hugely impressed by Ganna’s ability to both hunt down any late attacks and then deliver such a stunning pace on the final climb. But as he also pointed out, the Italian had been instrumental in getting the break to go clear in the first place as well. Coming so soon after his successful time trial effort only made his performance all the more remarkable.
“Seeing [Ganna] at the start reminded me of [Wout] Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) at the Tour last year when he could just make a break happen. He was going so well, and the bunch was just splitting. Everyone was getting dropped, and he was making the break,” Thomas recounted.