The man they call G put it together on the descent of Mont Brouilly. After chasing eventual winner Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) at the summit, the Welshman caught him on the descent.
It wasn’t the 25% grade at the top of the cat 2 Côte du Mont Brouilly where Thomas made his mark but rather drop down the other side. His aggressive descending skills hooked him back onto the wheel of Slagter. The Dutchman got the stage win and Thomas took second, finishing on the same time and slipping into the leaders jersey.
A sweet day for Team Sky and perhaps ASO boss Christian Prudhomme is feeling better after his vocal displeasure that Sky had pulled defending champion Richie Porte and switched him over to rival race Tirreno-Adriatico.
“Unbelievable. Friday before the race started, I was told I was going to lead the team, which was big,” said Thomas. “Paris-Nice is one of the biggest stage races in the world behind the Tour and the Giro. To wear the jersey is great, I’m really happy.”
Thomas was made captain in Porte’s absence and he rose to the occasion. The nominal co-captain Edvald Boasson-Hagen finished in 87th place, 4:43 behind. We can officially cross off the Norwegian as a dark horse candidate for the podium in Paris Nice — Eddy, he can sprint, he can climb, just not here, form hors de combat. Please, Mr. Kerrison, where did it wander of to?
Now Thomas is the good company man steeping into the breech. Sure, he misses Porte but hey, he’s got the jersey so he’s not too choked up. “With him moving to Tirreno, it was a great opportunity for me, and like I said, it’s unbelievable. It’s great,” said Thomas.
Apparently Thomas doesn’t expect to hold the jersey tomorrow, figuring the two intermediate sprints and possible sprint finish will let John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) back in the game and the leaders’ lycra. Then again, there’s a mix of côtes and cols and this Paris-Nice promises to be high on unpredictably.
Should he loses the jersey, then perhaps stage six will be the place to grab it back. The race to Fayence throws in the category 1 Col de Bourigaille 9km before the category 2 climb to the finish. Then there’s the final day which features the category 1 Col d’Eze situated 15km from the finish. This race will go down the wire with the contenders separated by a handful of seconds. Right now Thomas is all of three seconds in front of Degenkolb and four ahead of Slagter.
With four stages to go, Thomas is what they call guardedly optimistic. “It’s all still to race for and it’s going to be tough with four solid days to come. There’s still a lot of good bike riders within a few seconds so it will definitely be interesting racing!”
Andy Schleck Watch: last seen shagging bottles and working for his bro, Frank. 102nd place on stage 4, over 7 minutes back and 152nd for a grand total of 15:49 in arrears. is Andy back? To answer your questions, yes, Andy is way, way, way back.