Geraint Thomas admits Giro d’Italia hope after Primoz Roglic takes lead on penultimate stage

Geraint Thomas (L) (Primoz Roglic (R) - Geraint Thomas admits the Giro d'Italia hope after Primoz Roglic took the lead on the penultimate stage - Shutterstock/Luca Zennaro

Geraint Thomas (L) (Primoz Roglic (R) – Geraint Thomas admits the Giro d’Italia hope after Primoz Roglic took the lead on the penultimate stage – Shutterstock/Luca Zennaro

Even in extremis, Geraint Thomas appealed to an endearing and dark sense of humor. He had just lost the pink magliaand with it his vision of winning a first Giro d’Italia at 37, after a time trial on Monte Lussari that wasn’t so much punitive as frankly sadistic.

The margin of defeat was so unbearably thin, as he let a 26-second overall lead slip to a 14-second deficit, that he felt he could only find solace at the bottom of a glass. . “It’s over for me,” he said with the saddest of smiles. “I’m on the p— for the next two months.”

As always in sport, it is hope that kills. It had seemed that a mechanical malfunction for Primoz Roglic, his closest pursuer and accomplished time trialist, would offer some form of celestial intervention. Instead, Roglic repaired his fallen chain in the blink of an eye, pumping his legs like pistons on the wild final ascent, where the gradient reached 22% in places.

A time of 44 min 23 sec was 42 seconds faster than anyone else had clocked all day. And Thomas, left alone on the road, could only push his way through the legion of euphoric Slovenian fans, realizing with hideous clarity that his race was done.

For three weeks, Thomas had fought a magnificent campaign, maintaining his advantage in the biblical rain and the worst that the queen stage of the Dolomites, with its 5,400 meters of drop, could inflict on him. But he always knew that this thorniest test in the heart of Roglic territory, just 12 miles from the Slovenian border, stood between him and glory.

His pre-stage prediction of ‘exciting to watch, horrible to do’ proved eerily prescient as Roglic reclaimed time with fierce intent.

Geraint Thomas crosses the finish line of the Giro d'Italia stage 20 time trial - Geraint Thomas admits the Giro d'Italia hope after Primoz Roglic took the lead on the penultimate stage - Getty Images/Stuart Franklin

Geraint Thomas crosses the finish line of the Giro d’Italia Stage 20 time trial

Thomas emerged as a model for composure when he changed bikes and helmets mid-ride, ready for the transition from flat to steep. But as he approached the finish line at this ancient shrine deep in Udine, he worked, sensing from the locals’ jubilation that the damage inflicted by Roglic was beyond repair.

“I could feel my legs going a mile and a half away from the top of the climb,” says Thomas. “I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses, but I just don’t feel like I got that real ‘grunt’. Primoz crushed me and, to be honest, he deserves it .

“It also had a mechanic, and it still took me 40 seconds, so hat to him.”

Thomas is old enough and shriveled enough to recognize a horseman’s superiority when he sees it. The only consolation, perhaps, is that the Welshman didn’t waste this precious chance, finding himself instead thwarted by a supreme performance from Roglic.

But this defeat to the death will cut him deep, no matter how many cathartic drinking sessions he enjoys. Only nine of the previous 292 grand rounds had been decided in 15 seconds or less. It was Thomas’s misfortune to emerge on the wrong side of 10th.

As head of Ineos Grenadiers, Thomas had considered clinking glasses of prosecco to toast his victory at the end of Sunday’s 84-mile procession in Rome. Now, in a maddening twist, the cheers will be all for Roglic’s conquest, celebrating a maiden Giro to sit alongside his three Vuelta a Espana victories.

Roglic will feel that justice has been served

But Roglic has his reasons to believe justice has been served. After all, it was in the penultimate stage of the Tour de France 2020 that he suffered his own horror against the clock, sending two minutes to his compatriot Tadej Pogacar at La Planche des Belles Filles to return the yellow jersey.

Those ghosts threatened to resurface when his chain slipped on the most brutal part of the climb. But this time, Roglic, with a bitter experience and brought home by fans jumping on the road, would not be denied.

“I had the legs here and the crowd here gave me a few extra watts,” said the former ski jumper. ” I was flying. It’s something incredible. It’s not a story of victory, but of energy. It is a moment to live and to remember.

It had seemed to everyone that this was to be Thomas’s year. If he will always be defined by his victory in the 2018 Tour de France, he did not hide his intentions on the Giro, which until then had been cursed by bad luck.

In 2017 he was involved in a mass pile-up triggered by the poor positioning of a police racer’s motorcycle, and in 2020 his race collapsed after he took a hard fall colliding with a rogue water bottle.

Cleverly protected by his servants, Thomas had given himself all the senses to face the storm. “I’m disgusted for the boys, they’ve worked so hard,” he said. “If you had told me in March that this would be the result, I would have bitten your hand. But now I am devastated.

Rarely, as Roglic communed just yards away with his adoring crowd, were the feelings of joy and desolation more neatly juxtaposed.

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