Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) was one of the few top favourites to lose time at the first summit finish of the Vuelta a España, with the Briton shedding nearly a minute to stage winner Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) on the difficult higher slopes of the Arinsal.
The Briton had crashed late on stage 2 alongside Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and crossed the line in Barcelona with a banged-up knee. But after the much harder stage 3 to Andorra, he did not mention the fall, as being a problem.
“Today I was legless, really,” Thomas told media with his usual direct style of speaking at the finish after falling behind on the Arinsal, “and there’s not much more to say.”
“I felt OK in the day but then the last climb, I didn’t feel I had anything in there to really push.”
“I was on the back foot at the back, yo-yoing off it and it’s not the best place to be. So it was a day to forget about.”
The Giro d’Italia runner-up said that it was not a day with major surprises in terms of how the stage played out. It was just his part in it that did not go as he had hoped.
“It went as expected. All the usual suspects were there, and going strong. When the breakaway went with [Damiano] Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) up there, we knew they’d ride to bring it back or keep it in touching distance anyway. Then they put down a hard pace on the last climb.”
“But as for me, I just didn’t have it today.”
Questions will now arise as to whether Thomas should keep on fighting for GC or switch to stage wins. But even if he was off the pace on one stage, the time gaps are still too small for that to become a real dilemma for the Welshman.
As Thomas put it, “Obviously it’s early on in the race, and there’s still about 16 hard days to come, so I won’t get too despondent, I’ve just got to keep on fighting.”
“Once the break went with the strong guys in it, we knew they’d ride hard behind and I wasn’t sure whether they’d close it or keep it under a minute, by the finish.”
“They rode hard and brought it back, and Remco went for the stage. But for me, it’s just a pretty rubbish day.”
Thomas has two straightforward, relatively flat stages, to Tarragona and Burriana, to try to steady his ship before the next big mountain ascent to Javalambre in the sierras of Teruel in eastern Spain on Thursday. Either way, Andorra will remain a battle in the war that he will try to put behind him as quickly as possible.