Tue, Jul 31, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Thomas fulfills childhood dream

TEAM SKY DOMINATION:The 32-year-old Welshman became the third Briton to win the race after Bradley Wiggins and his teammate and friend Chris Froome

AFP, PARIS

Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, left, and Luke Rowe hold the Welsh flag during the 21st and final stage of the Tour de France from Houilles to Paris on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Britain’s Geraint Thomas on Sunday fulfilled his childhood dream by winning the Tour de France after the 21st and final stage won by Norway’s Alexander Kristoff.

Team Sky’s Thomas finished the race in Paris with a near two-minute lead on Dutch rival Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb to secure his first maillot jaune, with teammate and four-time and defending champion Chris Froome finishing third at 2 minutes, 24 seconds.

“It’s still not sinking in, it’s incredible,” said Thomas, looking gaunt and tired after three weeks of “suffering day-to-day” on the 105th Tour.

The 32-year-old Welshman, the third Briton to win the race after Froome and Bradley Wiggins, secured Team Sky’s sixth victory in the past seven editions.

“Big respect to Froomey,” Thomas said. “It could have been awkward, there could have been tension ... he’s a great champion and I’ve always had respect for you. The dream was always to participate and that dream came true 11 years ago. Now, up here, being in the yellow jersey in front of all of you [the crowd] is just ... wow.”

Thomas, known for having a beer while watching his favorite sport of rugby union, was quick to grab a Welsh flag before he jumped on to the top step of the podium before listening to a rendition of God Save the Queen — the British national anthem.

“I started cycling because of this race. I remember running home from school to watch it,” said Thomas, who paid a heartfelt tribute to his wife Sara, who was emotional as she stood on the sidelines. “The amount of support I’ve got ... ah, my wife. Big thanks to Sara. She’s been with me through thick and thin.”

Thomas, who won back-to-back stages in the Alps before sealing victory with a third-placed finish in the penultimate stage time trial on Saturday, took a 1:51 lead over Dumoulin into the 21st stage from Houilles to the French capital.

The final stage is usually a festive affair and Thomas was seen celebrating with his teammates early in the stage as he soaked up becoming the first Welsh maillot jaune winner.

It took several laps of the inner-city circuit around the Champs Elysees for the race to kick into action and after a six-man breakaway was reeled in late on, the sprinters’ teams upped the pace to chase down a last-ditch attempt by Belgian champion Yves Lampaert of Quick-Step Floors.

Lampaert was caught with only 220m remaining to the line and from there UAE Team Emirates sprinter Kristoff came off the wheel in front of him to surge to the line and hold off Germany’s John Degenkolb of Trek-Segafredo and Frenchman Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ.

“It’s a dream come true,” Kristoff said. “I’ve dreamed about this victory for many years.”

Thomas rolled over the line seconds later, smiling and joking with teammate, training partner and close friend Froome.

Slovakian sprint king Peter Sagan failed to get in contention for the final sprint days after suffering injuries in a spectacular crash in the Pyrenees, but the Bora-Hansgrohe rider consoled himself with three stage wins as well as winning his sixth maillot vert for the points competition, equaling the record of Germany’s Erik Zabel.

“I’m very happy, I suffered a lot in the last three days, but I’m very proud to take my sixth green jersey,” Sagan said.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe of Quick-Step Floors had already secured the maillot a pois for the King of the Mountains competition, a prize which came with two impressive stage wins, in the Alps then the Pyrenees.

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