Today's stage of the Tour featured 35 degree heat and a four hour high-speed ride on twisting, narrow roads with barely a metre of flat but Britain’s Geraint Thomas overcame all the pain of a fractured pelvis to complete the course.
The Sky rider finished 177th, more than nine minutes down on winner Simon Gerrans. Yet despite trailing at the back of the pack for most of the day, moving in and out of the saddle to try and ease the pain, and finally losing contact with the main bunch around 50 kilometres from the finish, Thomas was adamant he would continue.
“I’ve done so much to lose weight and get fit for this, so I’m not just going to give up straight away,” Thomas (below), who injured his pelvis on Saturday’s big crash but whose injuries were not fully discovered until Sunday night, said afterwards.
“The experts have said it’s not going to get any worse. I’m going to give it a few days and see if the pain comes down. It felt a lot better today than yesterday, and it also felt a lot better at the end than it did at the start. But I’ve got a crack on my bone, so it’s going to hurt, isn’t it?”
Asked if he was going to continue, he said: “My mum doesn’t want me to, but this is not your average race. I’m definitely going to keep fighting.”
Thomas gutsy attitude earned him praise from Sky leader Chris Froome, who said: “He came up to the front after about 100ks today and shouted, ‘Yeah! Come on!’ That made us all smile. He’s got fighting spirit. He’s in pain but he’s really up for it and I think that just lifts the rest of us.”
Meanwhile for the last 48 hours the most prominent component of Australian squad Orica-GreenEdge in the 2013 Tour has arguably been its team bus, which got stuck underneath stage one’s finishing gantry minutes before the riders were due to reach it.
But yesterday their veteran Simon Gerrans put his team’s tumultous start behind them with a stunning stage victory at Calvi.
In an agonisingly close sprint duel, Gerrans fended off one of the sport’s strongest all-rounders, Slovak Peter Sagan, by less than half a wheel – which given Sagan took the green points jersey and three stages of the Tour last year as well as 13 wins to date this season, is far easier said than done.
“We’ve had some publicity on this year’s race already, but for us this is better,” Gerrans said afterwards with a wry smile.
Prior to his win, TV viewers probably spent a large part of yesterday’s stage with their mouths agawp as the race wended its way through the largely unspoiled beauty of Corsica’s rugged and wild western coastline.
But rather than reflecting what a pity it was the Tour had not visited Corsica previously in its 100 years history, for the bulk of the peloton the 144 kilometre trek, on perpetually undulating roads, was probably only memorable for the frazzled state of nerves such relentlessly technical terrain ended up producing. And more high tension stages are soon to come, with the riders flying to Nice late yesterday evening and today facing an almost equally fraught challenge – a 25 kilometre team time trial.
On paper, Sky, as winners of the equivalent event in the recent Giro and third in the Tour’s last team time trial in 2011, should be one of the top favourites. And with most of the top names grouped at one second behind race leader Jan Bakelants, a spell in yellow for one of Sky’s riders may even be in the offing – even if Thomas, initially down as one of Sky’s key powerhouses for the stage, is now more in what he calls ‘survival mode’.
Tour de France: Race details
Tour de France, STAGE three (Ajaccio - Calvi, 145.5km/91 miles ): 1 S Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 3hr 41min 24secs, 2 P Sagan (Slovak) Cannondale Pro Cycling, 3 J Joaquin Rojas (Sp) Movistar Team, 4 M Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step, 5 P Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team, 6 J Antonio Flecha (Sp) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team, 7 F Gavazzi (It) Astana Pro Team, 8 M Bouet (Fr) AG2R La Mondiale, 9 J Simon (Fr) Sojasun, 10 G Izaguirre (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, 11 E Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling, 12 R Bardet (Fr) AG2R La Mondiale, 13 C Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team, 14 S Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team, 15 E Favilli (It) Lampre-Merida, 16 M Mori (It) Lampre-Merida, 17 SGeschke (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano, 18 D Malacarne (It) Team Europcar, 19 J Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard, 20 P Velits (Slovak) Omega Pharma-Quick Step, all at same time. Selected others: 28 C Froome (GB) Sky Procycling 3hr 41min 24sec, 29 D Millar (GB) Garmin-Sharp at same time, 156 I Stannard (GB) Sky Procycling at 8.26, 166 M Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 9.15, 177 G Thomas (GB) Sky Procycling at same time, 181 P Kennaugh (GB) Sky Procycling at same time.
General classification: 1 J Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard 12hr 21min 27sec, 2 J Simon (Fr) Sojasun at 0.01sec, 3 S Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, 4 M Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step, 5 E Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling, 6 D Impey (SA) Orica-GreenEdge, 7 D Millar (GB) Garmin-Sharp, 8 S Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team, 9 C Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team, 10 R Bardet (Fr) AG2R La Mondiale, 11 N Roche (Rep Ire) Team Saxo-Tinkoff, 12 J Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol, 13 S Chavanel (Fr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step, 14 J-C Peraud (Fr) AG2R La Mondiale, 15 C Froome (GB) Sky Procycling, 16 D Cunego (It) Lampre-Merida, 17 E Vorganov (Rus) Katusha, 18 R Kreuziger (Cz Rep) Team Saxo-Tinkoff, 19 A Valverde (Sp) Movistar Team, 20 J Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team all at same time. Selected others: 99 P Kennaugh (GB) Sky Procycling at 9min 16, 173 I Stannard (GB) Sky Procycling at 26.01, 184 M Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 26.5, 194 G Thomas (GB) Sky Procycling at same time.