Geraint Thomas briefly closer to second.

Geraint Thomas is even more third than before

Thomas is third, has been third, and with each passing day becomes more third in this Tour de France.

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Geraint Thomas dangled for a moment behind an accelerating Tadej Pogačar on the Col de Spandelles before shaking his head, just a bit, and settling into his own place. That place was third.

Thomas’s last week has been one of consolidation. He is third, has been third, and with each passing day becomes more third in this Tour de France. The two in front of him gain time; the two behind lose it. He floats in a river of bronze, rowing furiously against a raging current only to stay exactly where he started. On Thursday, he finished more third than on any previous day and it seems likely, given his time trial strength, that the time trial will send him even further into third in two day’s time.

Thomas is generally unable to respond when Pogačar and Vingegaard attack, preferring to sit at his own pace as the two he called “whippersnappers” after Alpe d’Huez have their fun up the road. But his tempo is higher than that of Nairo Quintana or David Gaudu. As of Thursday evening, he is eight seconds further in front of fourth, which is now Gaudu and not Quintana, than he was on Thursday, extending his gap to the riders behind from 2’57 to 3’05.

“I’m not going to tempt fate, but I’m definitely in a good position,” he said. 

It’s not all sitting on, riding tempo. He did attack once on Thursday. It came after a string of moves from Pogačar, one of the more than seven moves the Slovenian instigated in his last-gasp bid to rid himself of Jonas Vingegaard. In one of the lulls between uphill sprints, Thomas flew past the leading duo, out into open air, tantalizingly albeit briefly a handful of seconds closer to second, before being overhauled once again. 

A TV attack, he called it. So secure is his third that he can afford a bit of physical banter. “Everyone’s been banging on about when I’m going to attack,” he said. “So then there’s one TV attack for everyone at home.” 

He seems to be enjoying himself. Third is better than most likely expected of him this Tour de France, but from the first pedal strokes spun in anger all the way back in Copenhagen, it was clear that Thomas was here to play. He raced with his gilet on and still only lost 20 seconds – given what we know about aerodynamics, many of those were gilet seconds. He’s lean, feeling strong, and he’s been around long enough to ignore the whippersnappers and get on with his job. Rarely has a podium place at the Tour de France been won so handily, or been made to look so easily attained. That’s to his calm, collected credit, as it most certainly has not been simple.

“I was just a bit going through highs and lows today,” he added after Hautacam. “I felt alright and when it was kicking off I thought I’d just ride my own pace, that’s why I just went past those boys. I’d just had enough of those attacks they’d been doing, so just kept riding my own pace. And the last climb I wanted to stay with them until the steep bit because that’s the faster bit, then just ride my own pace a bit. I struggled a bit there, had a bit of a bad patch, but then came out of it.” 

He came out of it, of course, very much in third. 

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