Geraint Thomas fell a frustrating five seconds short of becoming Britain’s first ever winner of the Tour de Suisse – one of cycling’s top five stage races – after the narrowest of defeats in the final time trial on Sunday.
The near-miss, after some strong rides in the mountains and all-round consistency in the 1,321km, nine-day event, nonetheless all but guaranteed the 28-year-old a repeat slot in the Team Sky line-up for the Tour de France next month.
Time-trialling is often considered one of cycling’s duller disciplines, but yesterday’s 38km effort on a very technical course in Berne was anything but tedious. Thomas started the stage in second place overall, 34 seconds behind France’s Thibaut Pinot but still seen as a heavy favourite to win the race.
Pinot swiftly fell out of contention, but in a dramatic final twist, Thomas found himself battling against a seasoned stage race specialist, Slovenian Simon Spilak.
After 15km Thomas, Spilak and final stage winner Tom Dumoulin clocked exactly the same time – all but unprecedented in time-trialling for such a highly demanding course.
While Dumoulin gradually moved ahead, Thomas and Spilak were still within 10 seconds of each other as the finish approached.
Finally, Thomas slipped back slightly, to fifth on the stage, with Spilak’s second place and 18-second advantage allowing him to overtake the Welshman by five seconds overall.
“To be so close to the win is kind of nice but it also makes it hurt a bit more,” Thomas said afterwards.
“At the moment it’s still gutting not to get the win but it’s been a decent season and I think I’ve definitely made that next step up. Long may it continue.”
Thomas’s second place in the 82-year-old Tour de Suisse puts him on level pegging with Scotland’s Robert Millar, who twice finished in the race’s runner-up spot, in 1986 and 1990.
The 28-year-old’s close-miss is also testament to his huge versatility. Already a winner of a major cobbled Classic, the E3 Harelbeke, this March, he also has victories in the Commonwealth Games road-race and two Olympic gold medals in the team pursuit to his name.
Meanwhile, Chris Froome’s arch-rival Alberto Contador yesterday showed he was on top form before the Tour de France, too, as he claimed the overall victory in a French warm-up race, the Route du Sud.Reuse content