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Gallant Thomas battles on, but plays down Giro hopes

© AFP / by Justin DAVIS | British cyclist Geraint Thomas from Team Sky rides during the 10th stage, an individual time-trial between Foligno and Montefalco during the 100th Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy on May 16, 2017 in Montefalco

MONTEFALCO (ITALY) (AFP) - 

Crash-hit Sky rider Geraint Thomas will battle on but played down his chances of fighting for Giro d'Italia honours despite a valiant second-place finish in the 10th stage time trial Tuesday.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, of the Sunweb team, sent heads spinning in the scenic Sagrantino wine-region to claim a deserved stage win 49secs ahead of the Welshman that secured the race leader's pink jersey, meaning he will wear it for the second year in succession.

While Dumoulin suggested Thomas could rebound in defiant fashion when the race heads into the high mountains next week, the 29-year-old Sky rider is less sure about his own chances of challenging for a podium finish.

"It's a hell of a task," Thomas said after finishing the 39.8 km race against the clock from Foligno to Montefalco.

Thomas had lost over five minutes to pink jersey favourite Nairo Quintana of Colombia at Blockhaus on Sunday when he was among several riders brought down when Dutchman Wilco Kelderman clipped a police motorcycle by the side of the road.

Although a dislocated shoulder was "popped" back into its socket in order to continue, it left him with a throbbing energy-sapping pain in his shoulder.

Thomas, who was key to teammate Chris Froome winning his third Tour de France yellow jersey last year, fought the pain barrier again on Tuesday to finish second only to Dumoulin, who won Olympic time trial silver in Rio last year.

Although buoyed, he regretted deciding to throw his water bottle away during the race with the 'wrong' arm.

"It's one of those (situations) where you have to grit your teeth and go for it and hope the pain (in the legs) is more than the pain in the arm," he said.

"I tried to give it everything today. But I threw my water bottle away with this arm with about 8km to go, and I probably shouldn't have done that!"

Dumoulin, who wore the pink jersey last year after winning the opening stage time trial on home soil in Apeldoorn, now leads Colombia's Nairo Quintana by 2:23 in the overall standings.

The Movistar rider, as well as Italy's defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, will heap the pressure on next week when the real climbing begins from stage 16 onwards, before the race finishes in Milan on May 28.

Although Thomas is now 5:33 in arrears, Dumoulin said: "My rivals are still the same after Blockhaus. Maybe Geraint Thomas can attack on a hard mountain day and he gets five minutes."

Wednesday's stage is a medium mountain stage over 161 km between Florence to Bagno di Romagna, and that is followed by two 'sprint' stages where the overall contenders will largely be looking to stay out of trouble.

"Hopefully I can recover. Tomorrow's a super hard day, then we've got two sprint days," the Sky man said.

by Justin DAVIS

© 2017 AFP