COLMAR, France (Reuters) – Defending champion Geraint Thomas hinted he might lose more time to Ineos co-team leader Egan Bernal when the Tour de France’s sixth stage ends at the Planche des Belles Filles on Thursday.
The final climb is a 7-km effort at an average gradient of 8.7% — the kind of short, punchy ascent that Thomas believes favors other riders.
“It’s hated. That kind of climb favors the punchy, pure climbers. Egan for one, and Yatesy (Adam Yates), Riche Porte and Nairo Quintana in other teams,” the Welshman told reporters after Wednesday’s fifth stage.
Thomas already lost five seconds to Colombian Bernal when he found himself at the wrong end of a split in the third stage on Monday.
But that is no indication of form, Thomas said earlier this week.
“I think we will know more tomorrow,” he said.
“We will see how it is. I’ll just go and try to ride the best I can and see where I’m at on top.”
“I raced there a couple of years ago when I lost the yellow jersey so not the best memories,” he added.
Since the Planche des Belles Filles featured for the first time on the Tour in 2012, the rider in yellow after that stage went on to win the race — Bradley Wiggins in 2012, Vincenzo Nibali in 2014 and Chris Froome in 2017.
Thomas is seventh overall, 45 seconds behind leader Julian Alaphilippe of France.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)