• Last year's race winner Geraint Thomas powers past yellow jersey holder Julian Alaphilippe and GC rival Thibaut Pinot atop La Planche des Belles Filles. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Defending Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas fires the first volley across the bow of fellow general classification contenders with well-timed attack on arduous Stage 6 summit finish.
Cycling Central

12 Jul 2019 - 7:53 AM  UPDATED 12 Jul 2019 - 7:57 AM

Any notion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) is not a serious threat to successfully defend his Tour de France title at this year's edition seemed to fade as the 33-year-old Welshman surged on the steep slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles during Stage 6 on Thursday.

A well-timed kick helped Thomas gain valuable time on his general classification rivals, including four seconds on Ineos team-mate and co-leader Egan Bernal in what would be a nine-second swing from the previous day.

“I felt pretty good. I thought it would be a more solid day - it’s never easy, but it was steady for the first three climbs," said Thomas afterward.

“When Movistar went and [Alejandro] Valverde was riding it was solid, I was feeling pretty good - I was just unsure as on those steep climbs I was expecting Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana and obviously Egan to jump up there, so I was hoping for it to be hard all day before that. But it was a good day in the end."

The final, one of seven categorised climbs on the day for the race's first real mountain stage, featured a brutal 24 per cent gradient toward the finish.

Although the stage was won by Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) and the yellow jersey passed from Stage 3 winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) to Stage 6 runner-up Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) thanks to a six-second bonus for second place.

Thomas was able to place himself at the pointy end of the GC contenders with a fourth-place finish two seconds ahead of Frenchmen Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Alaphilippe, and seven seconds over Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

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“It’s one of those climbs where you really have to be patient and when [Julian] Alaphilippe went pretty early, at like 800m to go, I just had to have the confidence to let him go and ride my own tempo and try and ride it all the way to the line. I was starting to blow though as it was solid, overall it was a decent day.”

Fellow GC threats Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) join Bernal in losing nine seconds, while Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates) lost 14 and Thomas's former Sky team-mate Rigoberto Urán 18.