By Gareth James
Geraint Thomas says the five-day Etoile de Bessèges race was the shock to the system he needed as he builds towards the Tour de France.
The 34-year-old finished 49th overall – and joked that he almost got off his bike and ran the uphill sections of Sunday’s individual time trial.
But Thomas is delighted to have come through his first race back since fracturing his pelvis last October having been told he will lead Ineos Grenadiers on this year’s Tour de France as he looks to regain the Yellow Jersey.
“It was a shock to the system I think, but it was just what I needed, though,” said Thomas, who was more than five minutes down on race winner Tim Wellens of Lotto Soudal.
“There were some tough days, the kind of days when you’re suffering coming out of corners and just the punchiness of the racing gets to you.”
Thomas’s plan was to help out his team-mates for the first four days of racing before tacking the 10.7-kilometre time trial.
The Cardiff-born racer admitted the race against the clock at Ales was tough as he finished 23rd on the TT, 58 secs behind team-mate Filippo Ganna who won his second stage in a row.
“I knew in the warm-up that it wasn’t going to be a good day. I attacked it from the start, but then I almost stopped and walked it up the climb. It would have been quicker if I’d run,” joked Thomas.
“It’s been good to get a bit of racing in the legs. Coming here I’d only had one real day of efforts really, so it was always going to be a struggle.
“But I knew that this is just all part of the bigger picture. It’s just what I needed.”
Thomas added he planned to compete in the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var (19-21 February) and then probably the Tirreno–Adriatico in Italy (March 10-16).