Dani Martínez had predicted that the Tour de France hierarchy at Ineos Grenadiers would not be decided on the climb of Super Planche des Belles Filles but, as the dust settled, Geraint Thomas emerged as the British super team’s best finisher and now spearheads their trident of GC riders.
Race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) surged away with Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) in the steep final 200 meters of the race’s first summit finish, but Thomas finished fifth at only 14 seconds, just behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) .
Adam Yates fought the gradient to finish ninth at 29 seconds, with Martínez further back at 45 seconds. Tour debutant Tom Pidcock also impressed, finishing in the same time as Martinez.
Pogačar gained another 10-second time bonus by edging past Vingegaard to win the stage and now leads the Dane by 35 seconds. Thomas is up to third at 1:10, rising three places and past Yates, who is fourth at 1:18. Pidcock is seventh at 1:35 and second in the best young rider competition behind Pogačar. Martínez slipped at eighth at 1:55 but will surely rise up the GC in the high mountains.
Thomas called on the Ineos Grenadiers team to use their strength in numbers wisely.
“It’s good that we’re all there,” he said at the summit. “We haven’t done a proper mountain stage yet and we’re in there. Going into the next two weeks we’ll try to use those numbers well and not just attack at random.”
Thomas is aware of the challenge he and Ineos Grenadiers face against Pogačar and Vingegaard but with every good performance on every key stage, he is growing in confidence. He was equally as strong in the 2019 Tour de France on the Planche des Belles Filles and went on to finish second overall.
“In 2019 it was a similar thing. I’m happy to have been in the mix,” Thomas said. “Obviously Pogacar is strong. He can ride the cobbles, sprint on uphill finishes, and can win sprints, he’s got it all.”
However, he did not share the view that the Slovenian was invincible, highlighting potential weaknesses in his team as cause for optimism.
“He has [Rafal] Majka who is riding well and [George] Bennett is decent, too. But the rest [of his team] were struggling at climbing, so hopefully we can use our numbers on him at some point. We’re going to definitely try and we’ve got three guys to try it.
“Of course it’s not just Pogačar we’ve got to try and beat. Jumbo-Visma are also strong. But we’re in the mix, which is the main thing. We’re there or there or thereabouts, so we can definitely try to use those numbers.”
New marginal gain? Ice bath post-race for Adam Yates. #TDF2022 pic.twitter.com/r3RfIxYpDyJuly 8, 2022
Adam Yates jumped into an ice-bath, created from a child’s paddling pool, after riding down to the Ineos Grenadiers team bus parked seven kilometers from the finish line to help his recovery from the heat and hard racing.
He wasn’t too concerned about losing a few seconds on the dirt road to the summit of Super Planches des Belles Filles, and was happy to be in the top ten with his teammates and with multiple options as the high mountains near.
“I like to go out of the saddle and use a big gear but on a surface like this, you don’t go very fast. It is what it is. G (Geraint) was up there and we’re all still in the mix,” Yates explained, looking at the long game and the hard racing still to come in the Alps and Pyrenees.
“It’s going to be a long three weeks. We’re going to have three guys in GC for as long as possible and hopefully, come the last week, we can reassess and see what we can do.
“Both Pog (Pogačar) and Rog (Roglič), plus Jonas Vingegaard, are going so well that it’s hard to beat them one on one. If we have three guys fighting and not too far down, then maybe we can do something.”