Geraint Thomas, better late than never
July 31 st 2018 - 14:54
Geraint Thomas is the first Welshman and the third Briton to win the Tour de France. Moreover, he scored the sixth overall victory by Team Sky in seven editions (from 2012 to 2018) after he helped Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome to do so. Aged 32, he’s an example of perseverance and consistency.
Thomas often recalled his first Tour de France. His UK-registered and Italian-based team Barloworld lined him up as a neo-pro partly because the race kicked off from London, so at the aged of 21 he was already able to discover the greatness of the Grande Boucle, knowing that he wouldn’t ride it the year after due to his Olympic Games commitment as a track rider. In the cycling world, the Welshman is firstly a gold medallist in Beijing 2008 and London 2012. He finished the 2007 Tour de France in second last position. “In the mountains, I was alone at the back with just a police motorbike to accompany me”, he said. “Since then, every time I struggle on the bike, I remind myself it’s nothing compared to the suffering of my first Tour de France.”
Thomas returned with Team Sky in 2010 as a founding member of the first ever World Tour British squad. He was their first rider to deliver a big result as he finished second to Thor Hushovd in stage 3 from Wanze to Arenberg. It was the cobblestones stage. He was yet to discover what kind of road rider he could become after the London Olympics set to be the pinnacle of his sporting career. A classics specialist? Among the favourites of the 105th Tour de France at the start in Vendée, where stage 9 on the pavés was set to be the turning point of the race, he was the only one who had made the top 10 of Paris-Roubaix before (7th in 2014). The truth is that the classics are a bit too specific for him and the thinkers in Manchester had a plan.
Dave Brailsford announced in 2009 his ambition to get a Briton to win the Tour de France within five years. He didn’t make any name. Wiggins happened to be the first one and Froome unexpectedly filled his shoes while it was at the back of the mind of the team principal to also succeed with Thomas – a Welshman like him – in the transition from track superstar to Tour de France winner. “G”, as his team-mates always call him, rode as a loyal domestique for Froome in every Grande Boucle the Kenyan-born won, from the first one with a broken pelvis in 2013. His input in 2015 was of an exemplary dedication, so that Froome praised in several press conferences that his team-mate should also have his chance to ride the Tour de France as the team leader one day.
Thomas’ time has come in 2018, one year after a first stint in the yellow jersey following his time trial victory in the opening stage in Düsseldorf and one more nasty crash on stage 9 that forced him to abandon. This time around, Froome rode the Tour after winning the Giro. He lost 51’’ in stage 1 because of a crash and subsequently the captaincy of Team Sky. For the first time, the British squad had drawn their plans since the off-season around two leaders due to the uncertainties over Froome’s participation and condition after the Giro. Thomas’ season was built for him to be in top shape in July. After the 2016 Paris-Nice, he won the 2018 Critérium du Dauphiné as a final confidence booster for his GC contender status. Interestingly, in the first week of the Tour de France, he’s been the only favourite to grab some seconds (three) at the bonus points newly put on the course. He praised for luck to finally be on his side and he came out of the pitfalls unscathed. Once the potential dangers of the Vendée, Brittany and the hell of the North were behind him, he was in a perfect situation to take over from Greg Van Avermaet in the yellow jersey in the Alps. From stage 11 till the Champs-Elysées, he remained in control to finally crown a brilliant cycling career at the age of 32.