By Julien Pretot
ST ETIENNE, France (Reuters) – Defending champion Geraint Thomas crashed on the Tour de France on Saturday, losing time to Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, but took heart from a strong recovery.
“It’s annoying and frustrating but, at the same time, to come back like I did shows the legs are good,” the Welshman said.
The Ineos rider took a tumble on a right-hand bend some 15 kilometres from the finish of the 200-km eighth stage from Macon but remounted and made it back into the bunch before the top of the Col de la Jaillere, the last climb of the day with 12.5 kilometres left.
Shortly after Thomas rejoined the peloton, Julian Alaphilippe attacked to take bonus seconds at the top. He was followed by Pinot and the duo never looked back.
Alaphilippe reclaimed the overall leader’s yellow jersey and Pinot leapfrogged Thomas in the general classification after gaining 28 seconds on the 2018 winner.
The pile-up was caused by EF-Education First’s Michael Woods crashing in front of the Ineos riders, who escaped unhurt although Gianni Moscon’s bike was snapped in two.
“I’m fine but it’s just frustrating as the crash happened at a key point in the race,” said Thomas, who also crashed on the opening stage in Brussels last Saturday.
“I caught up for the final ascent, was moving up a bit and by the time I got to the top 15-20, that’s when Alaphilippe and Pinot attacked over the top to take the bonus seconds and I was gassed for a bit.
Thomas had his team mate Michal Kwiatkowski to thank for his recovery.
“His bike was fine, I grabbed it to put the chain back,” the former world champion said.
Despite the frustration, Thomas, who sits fifth overall, 1:12 off the pace and 19 seconds behind third-placed Pinot — one of his main GC rivals — was upbeat.
“You don’t want to give any unnecessary time away and if I hadn’t have crashed I could have followed them and it would have been a totally different story — but that’s the way it goes. There’s still a lot of racing to come.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon)