Giro d’Italia: Tadej Pogačar ‘is kicking my head in’ says Geraint Thomas

Welshman forced to follow the race leader on stage 3 after late attack

Clock15:35, Monday 6th May 2024
Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) after the finish of stage 3 at the Giro d'Italia

© Getty Images

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) after the finish of stage 3 at the Giro d'Italia

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) was forced on the defensive on stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia after race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) attacked on the final small rise before the finish.

Pogačar was the only rider able to respond to a move by Mikkel Frølich Honoré (EF Education EasyPost) with Thomas forced to chase inside the final 3km. It took a while for Thomas to make contact with the maglia rosa but the trio remained clear of the peloton as the road flattened out before Honoré was forced to ease off inside the final 2km.

Read more: Giro d'Italia stage 3: Tim Merlier takes chaotic win after Pogačar and Thomas go on the attack

Pogačar and Thomas remained clear right until the final 400m before the sprinters came by and, with order restored, Tim Merlier won the stage for Soudal Quick-Step.

“It wasn’t the plan!" Thomas said at the finish. "We just wanted to stay well out of trouble, stay on the left, we did that from quite early on. Thymen [Arensman] set a great pace, then I saw Honoré and then Pog go, and I was like, ‘might as well just go’. But jeepers, man, it was solid. He’s kicking my head in!"

“I just told him I was quite tired, in a few less words. I was just trying to hold his wheel! And trying to give him a turn, but it was solid, we were going. I looked back and I was surprised to see such a big gap, but then I knew they were gonna come, especially with the way I was feeling. I didn’t feel I could really contribute too much through the line. But yeah, bit different!"

Thomas pointed to the earlier action, which saw a frantic hour as splits formed in the peloton, as a reason for the assuming uncategorised climb suddenly becoming a launchpad.

As for the irrepressible Pogačar: "It’s kind of what he does. I didn’t expect a move up there – I thought it would be fast and that would put people off but I guess the way we raced half-way through the day, there were a few tired legs.

"We knew with it being not a hard climb but solid enough to mark everyone suffer, that the lead-outs might be bit tired. When we went it was just on instinct: just follow. In the end I was just thinking 'I just want to finish – this is hurting'."

Another hit-out at the intermediate sprint

The finale wasn’t the only piece of Thomas-Pogačar action we saw on the stage as the pair also hit out at the intermediate sprint with 22km remaining, which carried bonus seconds for the top three.

Thomas sparked the move, ordering his teammate Ben Swift to lead him out, to which Pogačar responded by opening his sprint. Swift crossed the line first, with Pogačar claiming two bonus seconds and Thomas the last remaining one.

Asked whether that move was in the plan, Thomas replied: “Not really. Just race it as it comes. We all knew there were bonuses there, but we didn’t speak about going for it, then we were all there.

"I saw Tadej on the right and I shouted at Swifty to go. I just rolled over [the line]. I’m not as quick as him anyway – I just wanted to take what I could.”

In the end, those two flurries of action strengthened the feeling that Thomas, who lies second overall, is Pogačar's closest challenger at this Giro d'Italia.

Asked whether he gained any confidence on that front, Thomas concluded: "I guess so. You can look at it two ways. Some people weren’t interested. At least I could [follow]. It hurt though."

For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

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