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Thomas on high after firing a title warning

 

On track: Geraint Thomas during his impressive stage
On track: Geraint Thomas during his impressive stage

By Ian Parker

Geraint Thomas delivered a major statement of intent in the defence of his Tour de France crown as he pulled clear of young team-mate Egan Bernal on the final brutal slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles.

As Dylan Teuns won stage six from the breakaway and young Italian Giulio Ciccone snatched the yellow jersey off the shoulders of Julian Alaphilippe, it was the sight of Thomas defying his own predictions and bursting clear of the main contenders at the last which caught the eye.

Much had been made of the five seconds Bernal picked up due to a momentary lapse from Thomas in the finale of stage three in Epernay, and that gap was only expected to grow here as gradients hit 24 per cent and the surface turned to gravel.

Thomas spent Wednesday explaining why the stage did not suit him and pointing to Bernal as one of the favourites to profit, but the Welshman perhaps knew more than he was letting on.

"I was feeling good but I was unsure," Thomas said. "I thought the steep climbs weren't my cup of tea. I was expecting others - (Nairo) Quintana, Egan, (Adam) Yates - would jump up there. It was a decent day in the end.

"It is one of those climbs where you have to be patient. When Alaphilippe went clear at 800 (metres to go) quite early, I had the confidence to let him go and ride at my own tempo and drive it all the way to the line from 350. I was starting to blow through. It is decent."

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