DÜSSELDORF, Jul 2 – Geraint Thomas admitted he won’t know where to ride in the peloton on Sunday as he wears the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey for the first time. The 31-year-old Briton was a surprise winner of Saturday’s first stage time-trial in Dusseldorf and will look to hold onto yellow during Sunday’s 203.5km second stage that finishes in Liege, Belgium.
But Thomas said he wasn’t sure where to position himself along the route now that he is in yellow. The Welshman’s role at this Tour is to help protect Sky team leader and reigning champion Chris Froome, which means he would usually have the three-time Tour winner sitting on his back wheel.
Yet, as the yellow jersey wearer, it would normally be up to his team to protect him. “I’m just going to enjoy tomorrow (Sunday) and any extra day in the jersey. It’s a massive bonus but it doesn’t change the goal, which is to ride for Froomey. I’m just going to enjoy it,” said Thomas after his victory on Saturday.
He added: “I don’t know where I’ll ride – it’s just crazy, an amazing feeling!” Sunday’s stage is almost entirely flat despite passing through the Ardennes region of Belgium known for its hills. Tour organisers ASO said they had deliberately avoided the hills to give sprinters the chance “to come to the fore”.
It means that the day’s breakaway will likely be doomed from the moment the riders get away as the sprinters’ teams try to set up a bunch finish where they can manoeuvre their fast men into the ideal position to strike. The likes of German powerhouse Marcel Kittel and British speedster Mark Cavendish, who sits second on the all-time list of Tour stage wins, should be in the mix.
Kittel and world champion Peter Sagan may also have designs on claiming the yellow jersey. They finished 16 and 25 seconds respectively off Thomas’s time on Saturday, and with time bonuses on the line for the top three finishers on every stage, either could conceivably wrench the yellow jersey from Thomas before Wednesday’s fifth stage and the first mountain summit finish where the overall contenders should take over at the top of the standings.
Kittel was certainly feeling bullish, saying on Twitter: “Now it’s our turn!” Sunday’s stage should feature a fast and frantic start with many riders battling to get into the breakaway, particularly with the first king of the mountains points available just six kilometres into the stage, meaning the polkadot jersey will be claimed by the first rider to crest that short, 1.4km long Grafenberg climb. — AFP
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