NIMES, France — Crashing is becoming a bad habit for defending Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas. After hitting the ground twice over the past two weeks, the Welshman fell off his bike one more time Tuesday as a heat wave engulfed the race ahead of grueling days in the Alps when the Tour will reach its climax.
Once again, Thomas was lucky enough to escape with bruises and scratches, but the timing of his crash in the rural hinterland of the antique Roman city of Nimes was unfortunate. Although Thomas quickly got back on his bike and did not lose time, crashes usually have a lingering effect on riders’ bodies. It’s generally after 48 hours that the soreness reaches its peak, and that’s when he will be fighting in high altitude.
Lagging 1 minute, 35 seconds behind race leader Julian Alaphilippe with the race now going into its last five stages, Thomas was caught off guard under a scorching sun about 25 miles into the stage won by Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan.
“I just had one hand on the bars, and the gears jumped and jammed, and I got thrown off my bike on a corner,” he said. “… It’s just frustrating. It was such a freak thing.”
Photo: Christophe Ena / Associated Press
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However, Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang, who stood ninth overall, was forced to abandon the Tour with a left hand injury after falling late in the stage as the peloton pedaled by the picturesque town of Uzes.
Thomas will need to be at the top of his form Thursday for the start of an Alpine trilogy of stages including six climbs over 2,000 meters. This is when the race — the most exciting in the past decade — will be decided before Sunday’s ride to Paris.
Sixteen stages out of 21 have been completed, but the suspense remains intact, with six riders separated by little more than two minutes. Behind Alaphilippe and Thomas, Steven Kruijswijk remained third, 1:47 off the pace and three seconds ahead of Thibaut Pinot. Thomas’ Ineos teammate, Egan Bernal, is 2:02 behind and Emmanuel Buchmann has a 2:14 deficit.
Bernal, a Colombian and one of the best pure climbers in the Tour, played down Thomas’ crash and said the race in the Alps will suit him better than in the Pyrenees.
“He crashed, but with no consequence, and I don’t think he’ll suffer from it in the coming days,” Bernal said. “We’re approaching the Alps. The climbs there are longer and steeper. They’re more of the Colombian style of climbing. I’m ready and I feel good.”
Ewan said he suffered from the heat throughout the stage — temperatures soared as high as 104 degrees — but the Tour newcomer edged Elia Viviani and Dylan Groenewegen to post his second stage win following his success in Toulouse last week.
“I felt so bad today during the day. I think the heat really got to me,” Ewan said. “I was really suffering but I had extra motivation today because my daughter and wife are here. I’m so happy I could win for them.”
Samuel Petrequin is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Geraint-Thomas-crashes-again-as-heat-wave-engulfs-14118010.php.