UK’s Geraint Thomas ef­fec­tively seals his first Tour de France ti­tle

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Cycling Golf - By Andrew Dampf As­so­ci­ated Press

ESPELETTE, France — No longer merely a sup­port rider for Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas is go­ing to Paris in the yel­low jer­sey.

The Welsh­man with Team Sky ef­fec­tively sealed his first Tour de France ti­tle by pro­tect­ing his lead in the time trial on the penul­ti­mate stage on Satur­day.

Thomas takes an ad­van­tage of 1 minute, 51 sec­onds over Tom Du­moulin into the mostly cer­e­mo­nial fin­ish on the Champs-El­y­sees on Sun­day.

“It’s just over­whelm­ing,” Thomas said. “I didn’t think about it all race, and now sud­denly I won the Tour.”

Du­moulin won the 20th stage by one sec­ond ahead of four-time cham­pion Froome, who leapfrogged Pri­moz Roglic into third place over­all.

Thomas fin­ished third in the stage, 14 sec­onds be­hind. But that was more than enough with an ad­van­tage of more than two min­utes at the start of the day.

“The strong­est guy has won this Tour de France,” Froome said. “To­mor­row, to stand up on the podium with G, it’s go­ing to be a re­ally proud mo­ment for me.”

Thomas, known as “G,” was a sup­port rider dur­ing Froome’s ti­tle rides but he be­came Sky’s undis­puted leader when Froome cracked in the gru­el­ing 17th Geraint Thomas is poised to be­come the third Bri­tish rider — and first Welsh­man — to win the Tour de France af­ter Bradley Wig­gins and Chris Froome.

stage through the Pyre­nees.

Thomas and Froome have been to­gether since their days on the small Bar­loworld team a decade ago.

“Be­cause we’ve been team­mates and friends for so long, it made it eas­ier to com­mu­ni­cate hon­estly,” Froome said. “It was clear as soon as we hit the Alps that Geraint was in bet­ter phys­i­cal con­di­tion.”

Wear­ing an all-yel­low

skin suit on a bike in the red, white and blue col­ors of the Bri­tish flag, Thomas was the last rider to start.

In a few drops of rain, Thomas was quick to re­gain con­trol when his wheel ap­peared to lock up com­ing around a tricky, tight cor­ner early on. Still, he was first at the two check­points be­fore slow­ing in the fi­nal kilo­me­ters.

“I felt strong. I felt re­ally

good, ac­tu­ally. I heard I was up and maybe I was push­ing it a bit hard on some of those cor­ners,” Thomas said. “Nico (Por­tal, Sky sports direc­tor) told me to re­lax, take it easy and just make sure I won the Tour. And that’s what I did.”

At the fin­ish, Thomas let out a loud scream and held his arms out wide in cel­e­bra­tion. He em­braced his wife, Sara Elen, as soon as

he got off his bike.

“The last time I cried was when I got mar­ried,” Thomas said as he teared up.

Thomas is poised to be­come the third Bri­tish rider — and first Welsh­man — to win the Tour af­ter Bradley Wig­gins and Froome. He will make it Sky’s sixth vic­tory in the last seven years.

“It’s in­sane re­ally — just all the in­ter­est in Cardiff,” Thomas said. “Great to put it on the map. We’re a small na­tion and we re­ally get be­hind any­one that’s suc­cess­ful. By the sounds of it, it’s gone pretty crazy back home, so look­ing for­ward to go­ing back to cel­e­brate.”

An all-around rider who be­gan his ca­reer on the track, Thomas helped Bri­tain to gold medals in team pur­suit at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics be­fore turn­ing his full at­ten­tion to road rac­ing.

Thomas claimed the yel­low jer­sey by win­ning Stage

11 in the Alps, fol­lowed that up with an­other vic­tory atop Alpe d’Huez a day later, and de­fended his ad­van­tage through the Pyre­nees.

“He was in the shape of his life,” Du­moulin said. “He didn’t make any mis­takes. He was never put into trou­ble by any­one, in the moun­tains or any­where.”

The time trial world cham­pion, Du­moulin clocked un­der 41 min­utes over the hilly and tech­ni­cal

19-mile route.

It marked the first time in

12 years the Tour passed through the Basque Coun­try, and fans wav­ing the re­gion’s red, green and white flags lined the en­tire route in front of the area’s tra­di­tional half-tim­bered houses.

It was Du­moulin’s sec­ond ca­reer stage win in the Tour, hav­ing also won a time trial in 2016. The Dutch­man has won six TTs over­all at the three Grand Tours — the Tour, the Giro d’Italia and the Span­ish Vuelta.

BOB ED­MEE/AP

Bri­tain’s Geraint Thomas, wear­ing the over­all leader’s yel­low jer­sey, rides dur­ing the 20th stage of the Tour de France Satur­day. He is tak­ing an ad­van­tage of 1 minute, 51 sec­onds over Tom Du­moulin into the mostly cer­e­mo­nial fin­ish on the Champs-El­y­sees to­day.

PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

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