'I thought he was winding me up': Geraint Thomas believed Remco Evenepoel's Covid positive was a joke
Moments before the news became official, Geraint Thomas was one of the first people to discover that Remco Evenepoel had tested positive for Covid at the Giro d’Italia.
He found out from the world champion himself, too, who contacted him personally after Sunday's time trial to say he was pulling out of the race. Speaking in his rest day press conference, Thomas revealed he didn’t believe him.
“He messaged me just before the announcement,” the Ineos Grenadiers rider said. “At first, I kind of thought, ‘Is he winding me up a bit? Telling a bit of a joke?’ After the whole [Primož] Roglič stuff, as well. But then obviously came the announcement, and it was a bit surprising."
Thomas’s initial scepticism was not unfounded. After stage seven, he explained that Roglič had told him that he had Covid, only to find out later that the Slovenian had been joking. Evenepoel’s withdrawal, however, was serious.
“He said that, basically, he was wanting to let me know he’s going out the race due to Covid, and good luck. And that was it, basically. We had a brief chat. I said it was shit news, and sorry to hear that and just to take care and I’ll see him when I see him on the road.
“It’s a huge disappointment for the race. And it might sound weird, but even for myself, I was looking forward to a real, good GC battle with not just Remco and Roglič, but everybody else. There would have been a really exciting race.”
The Welshman, who previously trailed Evenepoel by 45 seconds in the general classification, will wear the pink jersey on Tuesday’s 10th stage as the new race leader.
“Leading the race is a massive honour,” he said, “but at the same time, it’s not really the way you want to take the jersey. It’s what’s happened, and that’s the way it is. I’ll definitely wear it with pride. It’s the first time I’ve worn the pink jersey, but as I say, it’s definitely not the way you want to take it. I just wish Remco well and hopefully he’s back soon.”
Having already lost Filippo Ganna to a Covid positive, Thomas and his Ineos Grenadiers team-mates are now particularly mindful of avoiding the virus. The Welshman said he has had no symptoms - “touch wood” - and that the team are keeping to themselves as much as possible.
“We went out for a little hour and a half [ride this morning] and had a coffee back here at the hotel” he said. "We made them ourselves. We didn’t stop at a coffee shop with this whole new approach to Covid. So we just sat out in the sun with our coffees. At least it was free.”