Even for the Giro d’Italia, this seemed like a new extreme of cruelty. Monte Lussari was still in the early stages of Primož Roglič’s victory ceremony when Geraint Thomas emerged from a podium-side tent, having changed from maglia rosa He had just conceded 14 seconds in the stage 20 time trial.
By the time Thomas came out, Roglic had already been feted on the podium as the stage winner, and his remote celebration sent thousands of Slovenian fans who took the short jump across the border into ecstasy. “Pri-moz! wild moo! wild moo! “
Now expectations were building for the moment Roglic would finally be presented with his maglia rosa, and his wife Laura Klink and young son Liv took their positions at the side of the podium to watch the moment up close.
This meant that they were standing directly in Thomas’ way as he walked past, but the potential awkwardness of the encounter was quietly overcome by sympathy. Leif is Thomas’s son’s playmate at Monaco. Klink, of course, knows how deep a man gets when he loses a Grand Tour in circumstances like these.
Thomas’ response here echoed Roglic’s magnificence in La Planche des Belles Filles. His face creased with a smile when he saw his neighbors, and he reached out to greet Lev, who was wearing a Jumbo Visma T-shirt for the occasion. “He wanted to congratulate you,” Klink said to Thomas, who replied to the young man with a cheerful “good job” before making his way toward the group of reporters who stood waiting for him.
The Welshman had raced the Giro almost flawlessly up to this point, and was consistent again here, finishing second on the stage. However, the steep gradients of Monte Losari would prove to be a let down. Although he gamely limited his deficit on the lower slopes, he finally gave up in the closed kilometers, losing 40 seconds to Roglic and with them the Giro d’Italia.
“I am very disappointed,” said Thomas. “If I had been told this in February or March, I might have bitten your hand, but now I’m broke, so… I guess once it sinks in, I can be proud of what we’ve done. It’s what it is.”
Thomas’ early season was compromised by illness, but his consistency looked set to lead him to victory in this most draining Giro after he fought off Roglic’s attack on the stunning upper reaches of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo on Stage 19.
Although Thomas gave up three seconds there, he didn’t feel as though he had given up a lot of momentum in this contest. The 26-second cache before the trial on Saturday seemed like it might be enough until suddenly it wasn’t. In the end, he would lose the Maglia Rosa by 14 seconds.
“I felt fine, but with about a kilometer and a half to go I could feel my legs moving a little bit,” said Thomas. Primo had an incredible ride. If anything, it’s better to lose that much than a few seconds, because then you can differentiate and say I might have done this or that. At the end of the day, I couldn’t have gone 14 seconds faster. – And he had a mechanic too. He deserves it, and I have to be happy with second place.”
Thomas changing from his trials bike and helmet to his usual road setup was noticeably slower than Roglic, but he was only two seconds behind the Slovenian when he started the climb. However, the recent margin of defeat has made any forensic examination of change almost moot. “I think losing by 14 seconds is probably better than losing by four,” he said.
While Thomas was speaking, Vincenzo Nibali was helping Roglic up the maglia rosa on the platform above him, decibel levels rising accordingly. From the depths of this sea of Slovenian flags, the familiar chants have begun again, while pink confetti is now strewn in the end zone. “Pri-moz! wild moo! wild moo! “
Thomas’ voice was completely drowned out for a few seconds. It was like trying to do an autopsy in a nightclub in Ibiza. Then again, that probably didn’t matter. The moment was already beyond words.
“At this moment, it’s still bitter,” Thomas said when the noise subsided a bit. “But my season, I didn’t start racing until Catalunya in March… I stayed strong mentally and put in the work. I tried to do what I had to do, and I came here in good shape. In second place, I can still be proud of that. But for now, it just hurts.”
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