‘I’ll wear it with pride’: Geraint Thomas in pink jersey as Covid hits Giro d’Italia

  • Previous leader Remco Evenepoel tested positive for Covid-19
  • ‘It’s not the way you want to take the lead’ admits Ineos rider

Geraint Thomas will wear the race leader’s jersey on Tuesday in the 10th stage of the Giro d’Italia following the withdrawal, late on Sunday night, of Remco Evenepoel following a positive test for Covid-19.

The 23-year-old Belgian had been the outstanding favourite to claim overall victory in Rome on 28 May, but after a weary performance on Sunday in the 35-kilometre time trial, in which he beat Thomas by a single second, he withdrew that evening. The world road race champion relinquished the leader’s pink jersey, or maglia rosa, to Thomas.

“Leading the race is a massive honour,” Thomas said. “It’s not the way you want to take the lead but it’s what’s happened and that’s the way it is. So yes, I’ll wear it with pride.”

Thomas said he was “shocked” when he heard, direct from Evenepoel on Sunday evening, that he was leaving the race. “I speak to him a bit and he messaged me, just before his announcement. At first, I thought: ‘Is he winding me up?’ But it’s a huge disappointment, even for me. I was looking forward to a really good battle. It’s a huge disappointment for everyone.”

Covid-19 has already exerted a significant influence on the Giro this year, forcing a hasty reshuffle on the part of Primoz Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team shortly before the race started. Thomas said his Ineos Grenadiers team would now be further tightening their own health protocols.

“I guess we need to be a lot more aware of it and go back to what we used to [do] when we were in our own little bubble and wearing masks, in public spaces,” said Thomas. “As a team we’re going to go back to that kind of strategy.”

Despite the presence of the virus in the peloton, there has been no indication as yet from either the race organisers, or the UCI, cycling’s world governing body, that teams will retreat into the strict isolated bubbles that characterised the 2020 season.

“If everybody on the race does the same thing then it will stop other riders going home,” Thomas said. “Obviously it’s a massive loss losing any rider to Covid, especially a world champion like Remco.”

Thomas and his Ineos Grenadiers team are now in a dominant position tactically. With the second-placed Roglic sandwiched between the 2018 Tour de France champion and, in third place, the 2020 Giro champion Tao Geoghegan Hart, the British outfit can afford to wait for Roglic to make his move.

Remco Evenepoel
Evenepoel has withdrawn after a positive Covid-19 test. Photograph: Shutterstock

“Myself and Tao are both co-leaders [in the team],” Thomas said. “I’ve got the jersey but he’s close behind. Roglic is super close and the top 10 is all still close. We haven’t done a mountain top finish yet, and the race is still in the balance.”

One of Thomas’s great strengths in Grand Tour racing is his durability. “I don’t feel too much pressure or expectation,” he said, while admitting he “didn’t expect to be the leader on the first rest day”.

Thomas added: “I’m normally at my best level in week three and I hope that will be the case again. My time trial on Sunday was already much better than the first day, so hopefully I will continue to improve.”

An understudy to Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome for so many years, before his Tour win five years ago, Thomas is now among the most consistent performers in the peloton. Maybe too, it’s about time he was taken more seriously.

“Everyone always doubts me,” he said after narrowly missing out on a stage victory in the time trial on Sunday. Perhaps his dry and sometimes self-deprecating humour works against him, yet even his own team management were forced to admit they had misjudged his form after last year’s Tour, in which he finished third overall to the runner-up Tadej Pogacar and the champion, Jonas Vingegaard.

Neither Pogacar or Vingegaard are racing in Italy, which leaves Roglic and teammate Geoghegan Hart as the main obstacles to a second Grand Tour win.

“Both me and Tao are in a great position,” Thomas said. “I’m leading the race but as soon as someone stands out as the more likely to win then... I’ll be happy to help Tao, if he’s more likely to win and I’m sure he’d do the same thing.”


Jeremy Whittle

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Geraint Thomas regains Giro d’Italia lead as João Almeida takes stage 16 win
Geraint Thomas reclaimed the pink jersey and increased his time gap over Primoz Roglic with stage-winner João Almeida in second overall

Guardian sport and Reuters

23, May, 2023 @3:36 PM

Article image
Geraint Thomas’s Giro d’Italia hopes hit by crash as Nairo Quintana takes control
Nairo Quintana left his rivals behind on the final climb to take stage nine and the overall leader’s jersey but Geraint Thomas was caught in a collision with a police motorcycle

Niall McVeigh

14, May, 2017 @3:23 PM

Article image
Brailsford confident Geraint Thomas can bounce Ineos back at Giro d'Italia
Dave Brailsford says Ineos’s Geraint Thomas is a ‘true champion’ and up for the Giro fight

Sean Ingle

30, Sep, 2020 @10:24 AM

Article image
Giro d’Italia: Thomas and Geoghegan Hart lead Ineos and British hopes
The pair face a tough test starting on Saturday, up against the serial winners and favourites Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglic

Jeremy Whittle in Milan

05, May, 2023 @11:00 AM

Article image
Primoz Roglic set to win Giro d’Italia after seizing lead from Geraint Thomas
Geraint Thomas’s Giro d’Italia challenge evaporated on the steep slopes of Monte Lussari as Primoz Roglic won the time trial by 40sec

Jeremy Whittle

27, May, 2023 @4:45 PM

Article image
Giro d’Italia: Geraint Thomas holds firm as Filippo Zana earns home stage 18 win
The Italian road race champion, Filippo Zana, outpaced Thibaut Pinot to win Giro d’Italia stage 18 while race leader Geraint Thomas of Team Ineos maintained his overall advantage

Luke McLaughlin

25, May, 2023 @4:21 PM

Article image
Mark Cavendish wins final stage of Giro d’Italia as Roglic takes overall victory
Geraint Thomas finished second in the overall standings, 14 seconds behind the Slovenian who won his fourth Grand Tour

Jeremy Whittle

28, May, 2023 @4:56 PM

Article image
Chris Froome salutes Geraint Thomas after Sky teammate takes yellow jersey
Geraint Thomas won stage 11 of the Tour de France at La Rosière to claim the yellow jersey with the defending champion, Chris Froome, his Sky team leader, singing his praises

Jeremy Whittle in La Rosière

18, Jul, 2018 @7:35 PM

Article image
Yates and Thomas the favourites as Giro follows fast on heels of the Tour | William Fotheringham
A whirlwind of racing continues this weekend with the start of the Giro d’Italia, in which Simon Yates and Geraint Thomas both have a point to prove

William Fotheringham

02, Oct, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
Geraint Thomas lays down Giro marker in world time trial won by Filippo Ganna
Geraint Thomas marked his first ever world time trial championship appearance with a fourth place behind the Italian Filippo Ganna

William Fotheringham

25, Sep, 2020 @5:08 PM