Thomas takes Tour de France title
Eleven years after his first Tour de France, Geraint Thomas finally won the most prestigious title in cycling in Paris yesterday.
The 32-year-old Welshman is the third British winner of the Tour in the last seven years after Bradley Wiggins and four-time champion Chris Froome. His victory means that Britain has provided every winner since 2012 barring Vincenzo Nibali’s success in 2014.
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‘On cloud nine’
“When I rode the Champs-Elysees for the first time in 2007 that was insane just to finish the race and just to be a part of it,” said Thomas. “To now be riding round winning it is just incredible. It won’t really sink in for a few months, it’s just a whirlwind now. I seem to be floating around on cloud nine.
“Maybe when I’m like 70 sat in a corner of a pub telling some 18-year-old what I used to be it’ll sink it. It’s incredible, the stuff of dreams.”
There have been plenty of nightmares for Thomas en route to his first Tour de France title. In 2013 he fractured his pelvis on the opening day, but continued until stage 20 in order to help Froome’s successful title bid. In 2015 and 2017 his tours were also violently curtailed by accidents.
Peaked in the Pyrenees
This year, however, he rode a flawless race. Although yesterday’s 116km stage was completed with the customary leisurely pace – including glasses of champagne for Thomas and his Team Sky teammates – the Welshman had all but secured his overall victory on Friday in a brutal stage through the Pyrenees.
The mountainous stage had broken Froome, who nonetheless recovered sufficiently for Saturday’s time trial to ensure he finished third overall, but the former champion was consistently second best to Thomas throughout the Tour.
“Big respect to Froomey,” said Thomas, when asked about the teammate he had deposed. “It could’ve got awkward, there could’ve been tension, but you were a great champion and I’ll always have respect for you.”
Sandwiched between the two Team Sky riders in the general classification was Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, while Sunday’s final stage was won by Norway’s Alexander Kristoff in a sprint finish on the Champs-Elysees.
Anything is possible
Thomas was further back, on cruise control, having done the hard work in the preceding three weeks, but later, as he stood on the podium, draped in the Welsh flag, he talked of how he had reached the pinnacle of professional cycling. “You just keep going and keep believing,” he said. “Anything is possible, with hard work everything pays off in the end.”
What they are saying about Geraint Thomas
Welsh footballer Gareth Bale, who went to the same school as Thomas: “Incredible achievement from a fellow Whitchurch High pupil! What a win!”
2012 Tour winner Bradley Wiggins: “Difficult to sum up how incredible this guys performance over the last 3 weeks has been, amazing to have seen how hard this man has worked over the last 15 years. A truly amazing athlete, congrats.”
Team Sky’s Chris Froome: “It was a great moment being up on the podium with G. It’s amazing to see how far he’s come and I’m so proud of him.”
Team Sky director Dave Brailsford: “[It’s] the most emotional of all our victories… Geraint, growing up in Wales, worked so hard for such a long time – he’s a classic ‘make the sacrifice, it’s worth it’ kind of guy.”
Former Olympic champion turned TV pundit Chris Boardman: “He’s the most popular winner for years. No disrespect to those who have gone before him but he’s always laid it down for someone else and sacrificed himself for someone else.”
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