Monthly Archives: July 2018

Tour de France: Geraint Thomas says win ‘good timing’ for new Team Sky deal

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‘It’s just insane really’ – Thomas reacts to Tour de France win

Geraint Thomas has joked that his Tour de France victory has come at the right time, as he prepares to sit down and negotiate his future with Team Sky.

Thomas, 32, became the first Welshman and third British rider to win Le Tour when he clinched victory on Sunday.

“I have not signed a new contract yet, so it is quite good timing!” Thomas, who is out of contract at the end of the year, told BBC’s The One show.

He also praised team-mate Chris Froome for helping him achieve victory.

Thomas rode in support of Froome in each of his four Tour victories and was due to do so again this time only to emerge as the race’s dominant force.

Fellow Briton Froome, the defending champion, finished third overall.

“To have Froomey ride for me was a massive honour,” said Thomas. “He is probably the best Grand Tour rider ever and it was never awkward. We were always open and honest with each other from day one.

“I have big respect for him for that because it could have got awkward and been a bit of tension there.”

Hungry for more… and celebrity fans

Asked if the victory had made him hungry for more, he said: “Most definitely, I’ve got the bug for it now. I’ve really enjoyed my time in the yellow jersey and those stage wins as well. I want more now for sure, it’s exciting times.

“It will take a while to sink in. When I go back to Cardiff it’s going to be insane.”

Only adding to the surreal experience have been the messages of congratulations from across the sporting world and beyond – from the likes of Thierry Henry, Dan Carter and Sir Elton John, as well as a phone call from former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

“I spoke to him on the phone this morning, which was bonkers,” said Thomas, an Arsenal fan. “I stayed off Twitter and things during the race and went on after the time trial and it was just crazy. The support is just amazing.”

Bonding experience for Team Sky


Thomas said of Froome: ‘It must have been tough for him because he desperately wanted to win a fifth Tour de France’

Team Sky faced an expected backlash during the Tour, stemming from an anti-doping investigation into Froome that was dropped in early July and other controversies.

Riders were booed and spat at by spectators, while Froome was pushed by a spectator on Alpe d’Huez.

Thomas said the abuse had been something that only increased the bond among the team.

“We have just got a real good bond and we really sort of gelled as a team over the three weeks, especially with some of the abuse we were getting on the road,” he said.

“That really sort of brought us together as team.

“I’ve played that [support] role all my career almost, apart from this race, and everyone just dedicates themselves 100%.

“It’s a massive commitment and dedication, and much appreciated obviously.”

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‘So tired he rang the doorbell with his forehead’

Geraint Thomas in yellow jersey

Geraint Thomas was racing in his ninth Tour de France

There was a time when Geraint Thomas appeared to be blessed with talent but cursed by the rider it made him.

A rider described by Sir Dave Brailsford as one who could do everything, a racer who seemed destined instead to ride for others, who kept crashing when openings came.

Down on the final descent of the Olympic road race in 2016, down twice at the Tour de France in 2017, down when in wonderful form at the Giro d’Italia the same year. Your chances in elite sport come fast and slip away faster.

Now that curse is gone, blown away over the past three weeks in relentless and spectacular fashion. In its place, a certain giddiness, a happy disbelief, a triumph bigger than any of those disappointments combined.

Thomas watched his old Great Britain team-mate Bradley Wiggins win the 2012 Tour de France. He has helped Chris Froome to the podium in Paris three times, once having ridden for 20 days with a fractured pelvis. He has stood aside so Froome could chase other Grand Tours that Thomas might otherwise have won.

At 32, an age when riders start looking over their shoulder at younger, fresher talents, Thomas’ reward has come.

And when he stood on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday evening, blinking at the hundreds of photographers and thousands of fellow Welshmen who had travelled to witness the coronation, his happiness was shared far beyond.

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‘It’s just insane really’ – Thomas reacts to Tour de France win

Some sporting heroes seem to have landed from another world. Thomas inhabits the same one as all of us. His first bike as a kid was a cheap mountain bike called The Wolf. On the handlebars he had a small box that made big noises – police sirens, ambulances, fire engines. He rode it to the park with his little brother and dad to play football and rugby.

When he was given his first pair of cycling shorts, he had no idea you weren’t supposed to wear pants under them.

When he went out for his first long ride, from his home in the Cardiff suburbs to the Storey Arms outdoor centre in Brecon, he got lost on the way back and was so tired on his eventual return that he had to press the doorbell with his forehead.

When his mum realised this cycling thing wasn’t going away, she used to fuel her son the night before rides with barbecue spare ribs and egg-fried rice from the local Chinese takeaway, and with jam sandwiches wrapped in foil for the adventure itself.

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Geraint Thomas on the verge of becoming the first Welshman to win the Tour de France

As the rides got longer and the successes began to come, winning Olympic gold in Beijing 2008 as part of the GB team pursuit quartet, the boy grew up but stayed the same.

He shared a house with Mark Cavendish and Ed Clancy near the National Cycling Centre in Manchester and was berated by Cavendish for not washing up to sufficiently exacting standards.

He rode the same roads as all the amateurs and weekenders in the north-west – the Cat and Fiddle climb out of Macclesfield, the Brickworks out of Pott Shrigley, Winnats Pass, Holme Moss.

The Tour de France was both real and impossible. When Thomas rode it for the first time, as a chunky 21-year-old in the colours of the struggling Barloworld team, he found the pace of it baffling. Sent back to the team car mid-stage to fetch water bottles for his team-mates, he could only get back to the peloton by lobbing all the bottles away.


Thomas was 140th out of 141 finishers on his Tour debut in 2007

On climbs he would be dropped instantly. On flat stages he would be dropped all the same. Sometimes his bike computer would auto-pause, assuming he had stopped because he was ascending the big mountains so slowly. All the time the same thought was rattling round his exhausted mind: how can you come to a race like this and actually try to win it? It’s hard enough to finish a day…

The transformation came slowly but inexorably. From finishing the Tour to becoming Froome’s key lieutenant. Losing the puppy fat, losing some of the muscle that gives track riders their power. Horrendous training reps up Mount Teide in Tenerife, taking in altitude and long drags and brutal climbs. Ditching the spring one-day Classics for summer’s Grand Tours, finishing 15th at the Tour, learning from Wiggins and Froome and everything Team Sky’s coaches and nutritionists could throw at him.

This July he has ridden with the experience of a veteran and the confidence of a man who knows his time at last has come.

There are those who would put it down to luck, to the punctures and crashes sustained by his rivals. Richie Porte out after a fall on the road to Roubaix, Vincenzo Nibali brought down by a spectator on Alpe d’Huez. Tom Dumoulin lost time to a flat tyre and then a penalty for drafting before the Mur de Bretagne. Froome crashed on the very first stage.

Had Dumoulin and Froome stayed safe throughout, they would still not be within 45 seconds of Thomas. On seven different stages in this Tour, Thomas has taken time out of Dumoulin, the man who will finish second. Dumoulin took time from Thomas only on the penultimate stage on Saturday, and even then only 14 seconds.

Has Thomas been lucky? Luck at the Tour comes with cleverness, with putting yourself in the right place in a constantly shifting mass of 100 or more riders racing at 45 miles per hour, of reading the body language and moves of those looking to attack you and ambush you, of eating right and holding the concentration not only on the climbs but on treacherous, slippery descents too.

Luck comes from reconnoitring mountains and throwing yourself into the brutal training sessions that can get you through them. Thomas had ridden the time trial course three times weeks before the Tour began.

Sky have once again been the dominant team at this race. They have won each of the past four Grand Tours, and six of the past seven Tours de France. In riders like Michal Kwiatowski and Egan Bernal, they have domestiques who would be outright leaders at other teams.


Geraint Thomas won two stages in this year’s Tour de France

Thomas would not have won this race without Sky. Sky would not have won three other Tours without Thomas. You invest and you work and you accept the dividend that comes your way.

There are multiple subplots across the three weeks and 3,300km of a Tour. Some flare brightly before dying away like meteors across the night sky: the early sprint-stage wins of Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen, the redemption of John Degenkolb on the cobbles of Roubaix.

Some light up the darkness for longer. Thomas’ successes, first in the breathless summit finish on La Rosiere, then the unforgettable win up the iconic hairpins of Alpe d’Huez, have burned his name into the firmament.

The extraordinary could not have happened to a more down-to-earth man. The Tour has not always been blessed nor enhanced by its victors. There are asterisks where some winners once were and questions over others.

Thomas may never win another Grand Tour. But he will remain the inadvertent anti-Lance: always amiable, usually praising others first, never cocky, consistently self-deprecating.

He will probably struggle for some time to accept that he has finally won his sport’s greatest prize.

The Tour in turn should feel grateful that the kid who started on Caerphilly Mountain, who first fell in love with cycling on the Rhigos – a climb that starts by a south Wales industrial estate and rises past an old colliery – who respects this race’s traditions and who learned how to tame it, has now claimed its greatest prize as his own.

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Thomas Tour win planned in December, reveals Brailsford

Geraint Thomas puts on the yellow jersey

Thomas has worn the yellow jersey every day since taking control of the race on stage 11

Geraint Thomas’ Tour de France victory should not be considered a shock win because his entire season has been planned around the race, says his Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford.

Chris Froome was overwhelming favourite to win a record-equalling fifth Tour.

But Thomas went in to the race as Team Sky’s other ‘protected rider’ and will complete his win in Paris on Sunday.

“In December we decided his season should be based around peaking in July. He did it perfectly,” said Brailsford.

“It couldn’t have climaxed in a more emotional way. It seemed like such a long race and on a knife edge for the last few days and then all the emotion came out.”

The 32-year-old took control of the race by winning two stages in the Alps in the second week of the three-week race – taking the leader’s yellow jersey after stage 11 and the following day becoming the first Briton to win on the fabled Alpe d’Huez.

Thomas was equal to numerous challenges from second-place Tom Dumoulin in the Pyrenees in the final week, while defending champion Froome faltered.

The Welshman took a lead of more than two minutes into the time trial on Saturday’s penultimate stage and lost only 14 seconds to world champion Dumoulin.

And with Tour convention dictating the yellow jersey is not challenged on the final stage in Paris, Thomas knows he only has to cross the finish line to become the third Briton to win the race – after Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Froome’s subsequent quartet of wins.

A proud Welshman


Thomas’ wife Sara was the first to congratulate him when he crossed the finish line after Saturday’s time trial

Brailsford said the Team Sky squad were under “strict orders” not to have any alcohol on Saturday evening, although they were “allowed a burger”, but he conceded “there is no way that curfew can survive tonight [Sunday]”.

He added: “His next race is meant to be on Saturday but I’ve had so many texts and calls saying how many Welsh people are coming to Paris that I fear he might not make it.

“He’s like the guy next door – nobody has a bad word to say about him. You couldn’t find a prouder Welshman. Every time he has the opportunity to go home to his family he will do.

“When he’s on the bike he makes the sacrifices but when he’s not, he’s the life and soul of the party.

“And like most Welshmen, he likes to have a pint and start singing.”

Dauphine win key

June’s Criterium du Dauphine race is an excellent indicator of form heading into the Tour de France.

Wiggins won the week-long race in 2012 before going on to triumph in the Tour and Froome has won the Dauphine on three occasions, each time then going on to take the Tour title.

Thomas won this year’s edition and Brailsford said on BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek: “It was probably his biggest win in a stage race up to that point and it set him up perfectly.

“Psychologically he went into the Tour with great self confidence and a quiet assuredness and he just quietly went about his business, chipped off every day and then found himself in the yellow jersey.

“He didn’t think about winning the overall title, took it day by day and did a fantastic job.”

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Tour de France: Geraint Thomas faces final challenge on Saturday

Geraint Thomas races in the Team Sky train

Thomas took a decisive step towards overall victory with a fine second place in Friday’s mammoth mountain stage

Britain’s Geraint Thomas can effectively secure victory in the 2018 Tour de France on Saturday.

The Welshman goes into the penultimate stage, a 31km individual time trial, leading Dutchman Tom Dumoulin by two minutes and five seconds.

Tour convention dictates that the wearer of the yellow jersey is never attacked on the race’s final stage.

So if Thomas is still leading after Saturday he will just have to cross the line in Paris on Sunday to win.

The 32-year-old would be the third Briton to win the Tour de France, after fellow Team Sky riders Sir Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Chris Froome.

Four-time champion Froome is currently fourth, two minutes and 37 seconds behind Thomas.

An unassailable lead?

Saturday’s stage 20, a hilly 31km time trial, separates Thomas – who won the British time trial title last month – from victory in the Tour, but he will face a stiff challenge from the three riders immediately behind him in the overall standings.

Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic and Froome finished first, second and third in the 2017 world time trial championships.

World champion Dumoulin is two minutes, five seconds behind, with Slovenia’s Roglic 19 seconds back from the Dutchman and Froome a further 13 seconds in arrears.

The riders will go out in reverse order, with Thomas last to start as race leader.

He is expected to start his time trial at about 15:30 BST – there will be live coverage on the BBC Sport website from 13:00 BST plus commentary on BBC Radio 5 live.

“I’m certainly in a good position but I’m still trying not to get carried away and think about winning the yellow jersey,” Thomas told BBC Sport.

“As soon as you take your eye off the ball, you can slip up. I’ve got a two-minute advantage but still need to ride well on Saturday. I hope it’s enough.”

Thomas is Cavendish’s ‘one to watch’


The profile of stage 20’s individual time trial

In his stage-by-stage guide for the BBC Sport website Mark Cavendish, who has won 30 stages on the Tour de France during his career, picked Thomas as his potential winner of the stage.

Cavendish said: “It’s a mixture of ups and downs on technical roads. It’s not going to be someone who can only mash a big gear who is going to win this.

“It’s going to be someone that can make a plan and stick to that. A lot of guys will go off hard and with a little kick in the last 3km are likely to lose a lot of time even though it’s less than a kilometre long.”

General classification after stage 19:

1. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) 79hrs 49mins 31secs

2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Team Sunweb) +2mins 05secs

3. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Team LottoNL-Jumbo) +2mins 24secs

4. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +2mins 37secs

5. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/Lotto NL-Jumbo) +4mins 37secs

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Demare wins sprint finish as Thomas keeps yellow

Arnaud Demare wins in Pau

Arnaud Demare’s stage win is his second in the Tour de France after a sprint to win in Vittel last year

Britain’s Geraint Thomas retained his overall lead in the Tour de France as Arnaud Demare won a sprint finish in Pau to take the 18th stage.

Team Sky’s Thomas finished safely in the peloton to maintain his lead of one minute 59 seconds over Tom Dumoulin.

Defending champion Chris Froome remains third, a further 32 seconds back, with only a mountain stage, a time trial and Sunday’s finale in Paris to come.

Demare held off fellow Frenchman Christophe Laporte to win.

Peter Sagan, who is assured of the green jersey in the points classification, provided he makes it to Paris, briefly looked set to contest the finish.

The Slovak’s Bora-Hansgrohe team-mates set the pace into the final kilometre but Sagan, who suffered cuts in a crash yesterday, opted to stay out of the fray.

Thomas saves energy for another day


Geraint Thomas, who won team pursuit gold at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, is chasing his first Grand Tour victory on the road

Thomas and the rest of his general classification rivals were virtually invisible during the stage, tucked away in the peloton to conserve energy for the final two competitive stages of the race.

Friday’s mountainous stage takes in the famed Col du Tourmalet, but another 92km follows with the finish at the top of less steep Col d’Aubisque.

Saturday’s 31km individual time trial will provide the final challenge.

“We are in a great position,” Thomas told BBC Sport. “We’re expecting attacks on Friday so we’ll try be ready for that.

“I think Froome will help me if he has to but hopefully we’ll have enough strength that he doesn’t have to do too much and can save himself for Saturday’s time trial.”

Dutchman Dumoulin is the world time trial champion and won the 2017 Giro d’Italia when that race’s final stage was played out over the format.

Four-time Tour winner Froome has won four individual time trials in Grand Tours – including during his 2013 and 2016 Tour victories – and has picked up two Olympic bronze medals in the discipline.

However, Thomas’ own form – he won the British Championships time trial by more than half a minute in June – means Froome and Dumoulin may struggle to reel in the Welshman.

Sunday’s final stage is the ceremonial procession to Paris, when tradition dictates there is a truce in the general classification.

Social media slight powers FDJ

Demare’s win is the third stage success by a Frenchman in this year’s race, but it came with a significant, if unwitting, assist from a German rival.

Lotto Soudal’s Andre Greipel, who withdrew from the race on stage 12, suggested on social media on Wednesday that Demare received illegal help from the team car to stay within the time limit on Wednesday’s climb up the Col du Portet.

Greipel swiftly withdrew the insinuation and apologised after Demare offered to share the data from his ride on Wednesday, but the incident fuelled the whole of the FDJ team.


Griepel apologised for insinuating that Demare had cheated his way inside the time limit on Wednesday

“For sure that gave as an extra boost, so thank you Andre,” said Demare’s team-mate Jacopo Guarnieri.

“The first time I meet him it will be a chance to clarify.”

Friday’s stage


Mark Cavendish’s verdict from BBC Sport’s stage-by-stage guide: “The last big showdown in the mountains for the climbers. It’s going to be a long old day in the saddle and it’s going to be everyone leaving everything they have on the road.”

Stage 18 result:

1. Arnaud Demare (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) 3hrs 46mins 40secs

2. Christophe Laporte (Fra/Cofidis) Same time

3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/UAE Team Emirates)

4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Dimension Data)

5. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita/Bahrain-Merida)

6. Mximiliano Richeze (Arg/Quick-Step Floors)

7. John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo)

8. Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe)

9. Taylor Phinney (US/Team EF Education First-Drapac P/B Cannondale)

10. Timothy Dupont (Bel/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)

General classification after stage 18:

1. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) 74hrs 21mins 1sec

2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Team Sunweb) +1min 59secs

3. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +2mins 31secs

4. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Team LottoNL-Jumbo) +2mins 47secs

5. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar Team) +3mins 30secs

6. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/Lotto NL-Jumbo) +4mins 19secs

7. Mikel Landa (Spa/Movistar) +4mins 34secs

8. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale) +5mins 13secs

9. Daniel Martin (Ire/UAE Team Emirates) +6mins 33secs

10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana) +9mins 31secs

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