Tuesday 16 January 2018

Inspirational Thomas defies cracked pelvis in long, hard slog to the line

Ian Chadband in Calvi

Geraint Thomas offered his very own definition of sporting courage here in Corsica when he defied the excruciating pain of a cracked pelvis to cycle for 145.5km over a fiendishly twisting mountainous course and force himself to the end of the third stage of the Tour de France.

The double Olympic champion's mum Hilary was doubtless barely able to watch because she wants her boy to pull out following Saturday's terrible crash near the finish of the opening stage in Bastia.

If she had seen Geraint in agony, trying and failing to force his leg over his bike yesterday morning at the start in Ajaccio, it would only have hardened her belief that he should have quit there and then.

Sorry mum. After needing assistance to just mount the bike, Thomas then proceeded to hang on grimly for nearly four hours, mostly at the rear of the peloton while being treated with pain-killing spray, before getting off gingerly at the finish and declaring: "I won't give up."

Sometimes, you were reminded, sport is not about the winner. In the seaside town of Calvi, a crowd cheered for the Australian stage victor Simon Gerrans after his thrilling sprint triumph over Peter Sagan, but nobody made a fuss about the bloke limping home more than nine minutes later. Except his Sky team-mates, that is.

Thomas thought he had been useless to them, unable to shoulder his usual share of donkey work up and down the dramatic red rocks that looked as if they had been transported from a Hollywood western.

Yet his fortitude actually buoyed his team-mates. At the end, Chris Froome, his team leader, came over to put an arm around the man who was explaining how the past two days had been the hardest he had ever endured on a bike.

Astonishingly, Thomas actually improved his overall position from last place to 194th out of 196. So what chance of seeing him in Paris? "Look, it's 'G'. One tough Welshman," an admiring Richie Porte said.

Yes, 'G' for guts. "The experts have said I am not going to do any more damage by riding," Thomas said. "My mum is worried, though. She says there is no point in carrying on, that I can stop. Yet I've put so much into this I am not going to give up just yet."

Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish, dropped on the last of four categorised climbs, fell further behind in the green-jersey race with the new leader Sagan, but the 49-point deficit could have been worse had the Slovak not lost out by less than a quarter of a wheel to the 33-year-old Gerrans.

It prompted much joy, and relief, for the Australian Orica GreenEdge team, whose other contribution to this Tour had been to lodge their team bus beneath the finish gantry on Saturday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Tour de France, Live, Eurosport 1.45 / ITV4 2.30

Irish Independent

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