Giro 2024 / “I said to myself: ‘Maybe this is my day'”… Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis), audacity paid off

One might think that he harbors a pronounced passion for fortified cities. In 2022, it was at the foot of the ramparts of Carcassonne that Benjamin Thomas came very close to winning a stage victory in the Tour de France. The Cofidis rider was only caught by the peloton 500 meters from the line, before Jasper Philipsen settled the matter in a sprint. This Wednesday, the Giro arrived in Lucca, a medieval city located in Tuscany. The Frenchman once again found himself at the forefront in the final. Except this time, no one could stop him from triumphing.

“I thought of Carcassonne in the last kilometers. I said to myself: ‘Maybe it’s my day.’ I don’t think anyone would have bet on me.”, whispered the person concerned who, overcome by emotion, could not hide a few tears before climbing onto the formal podium. This victory, undoubtedly the best of his career on the road, did not come out of nowhere. He only owes it to himself. And his audacity.

The tears of Thomas, congratulated by Milan, his track “friend”

For a long time, we thought that this fifth stage would end like the previous two, namely with a massive sprint. The morning breakaway did not really have time to believe in its chances, since it was swallowed up 86 kilometers from the goal, because of an Alpecin-Deceuninck team which was leading at full speed at the head of the peloton. . Just afterwards, Benjamin Thomas had an idea: why not relaunch? “I surveyed runners, right and left, to find out if there were any motivated people. There weren’t many people, except Mika Valgren, who told me: ‘Why not ?’ But it was for fun.”, explained the Tarnais to Eurosport. For fun, therefore, the latter left the peloton behind. There were then 77 kilometers left to go.

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Thomas: “Valgren told me ‘why not’, but for fun… it was destiny!”

Accompanied by Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost), Enzo Paleni (Groupama-FDJ) and Andrea Pietrobon (Polti Kometa), the 28-year-old rider quickly managed to open a small gap on the pack. “The finale was good, with a long downward false-flat. With his rolling skills, Benjamin had a great chance”analyzed Thomas Champion at the microphone of Eurosport. “Everyone was pushing hard. 10 km from the finish, we were 40-50 seconds ahead, there was a tailwind, we knew we could play with the peloton. We were riding more than 60 km/h, difficult to make up time in these conditions”added the winner of the day.

It means a lot to me

Trapped, the sprinter teams were never able to get back to the leading quartet. However, Thomas had not yet won a race, far from it. But when Pietrobon attacked in the last kilometer, the double omnium world champion did not panic. On the contrary, he made his track experience speak for itself, launching his sprint at the ideal time to swallow up the Italian, overtake Valgren and, ultimately, raise his arms. “Everything was perfect today”he rejoiced. “Sometimes you have to run on instinct, that’s the most important thing”greeted his teammate Harrison Wood.

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Thomas: “The joy of my teammates is priceless”

It should also be noted that Thomas was not in unfamiliar territory. Engaged to Martina Alzini, Italian professional track and road racer, he lives in Brescia and therefore often trains on transalpine roads. “I knew this ending, I had already been here, it helped me, he revealed. I knew it was interesting, with the cobbles and the turns.” Before admitting: “It’s a great thing to win in Italy, it means a lot to me.”

This daring success of the American Olympic bronze medalist (2021) also gives a breath of fresh air to his team, whose World Tour victory counter had still not been unlocked this year. “This victory feels so good!”exclaimed Roberto Damiani, the sports director of Cofidis. “We’ve been waiting for this one for too long”admitted Champion, all smiles. “I saw the joy of my teammates after the line, it was priceless”, recognized Benjamin Thomas. Who will probably not wait for the next arrival in a fortified city to be talked about again.

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What firsts for Cofidis and Thomas: the finale on video

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