When Egan Bernal’s Tour de France challenge collapsed on the summit finish to Grand Colombier, Geraint Thomas was over in Italy dominating the Giro d’Italia warm-up race.
Coming within 17 seconds of taking overall victory at Tirreno-Adriatico showed the Welshman was back to his best after being dropped for Ineos’ Tour de France squad.
The 2018 Tour winner quickly accepted the team’s decision to omit him from the line-up, and although many wondered if David Brailsford’s selection call backfired, Thomas was determined to focus on the Giro rather than dwell on something he had no control over.
Of course, the 34-year-old struggled for form in the lead up to the Tour, placing 37th at the Criterium du Dauphine, and this is what put him out of the selection picture.
But a year after finishing second overall to Bernal, Ineos missed that magic on the climbs and were unable to match the superior pace of Jumbo-Visma.
However, in recent weeks, a new training regime of long easy rides and a better-managed diet of pasta, protein and vegetable has seen him drop weight and rediscover sharpness.
In terms of his overall season, being left out of the Tour squad might prove to be a blessing. The extra few weeks of training has allowed Thomas to get leaner, clock more miles and arrive at the Giro in prime shape.
Second at Tirreno-Adriatico and fourth in the world time trial championships in Monza are formidable results for a rider coming into peak form just in time for a run at pink.
As a result of productive showings in recent weeks, he is installed as a key contender for the maglia rose alongside two-time champion Vincenzo Nibali.
Heading into the Giro on Saturday, the Cardiff man will compete over a course that looks ideal for his skill set, with three time-trials spaced out over the 21-stage race.
On Saturday the fight for the maglia rosa begins at the #Giro. Here's how the INEOS Grenadiers will line up in Italy.— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) September 30, 2020
Click below for the pre-race thoughts of team leader @GeraintThomas86 and Sir Dave Brailsford.
On the time-trials, he will battle against Ineos team-mates Rohan Dennis and Filippo Ganna for stage wins. And should he fall behind on those flatter stages, he has the climbing strength to reel back time on the mountain finishes at Etna, Piancavallo and Sestriere.
Tackling these soaring climbs, Thomas will be ably assisted by Jonathan Castroviejo, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Dennis and Ganna. But even with this wealth of talent at Ineos’ disposal, they are missing that classy domestique to steer him to success.
Nevertheless, for all the missing pieces to the jigsaw around various teams, the spotlight will continue to hone in on Thomas.
And if he can navigate the course unscathed, then the closing day time trial to Milan should be his coronation.
He still is only 34, but this could quite possibly his last best chance to prevail at a Grand Tour, especially with a weakened field as such.
Turning 35 in May, he does have experience and talent on his side, but he isn’t getting any younger, especially with the emergence of rising stars Tadej Pogacar, Remco Evenpoel, Marc Hirschi, Wout van Aert and Bernal.
He will always be a Tour de France winner, however, the new generation of quality riders coming through are slowly pushing the older generation out of the picture.
With Adam Yates, Richard Carapaz and Bernal on the Ineos roster next season, it is difficult to see Thomas get another opportunity like this to collect a second Grand Tour.