With awkwardness aside, Tour champ saves his biggest thanks for Froome
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With awkwardness aside, Tour champ saves his biggest thanks for Froome

Paris: After winning the Tour de France, Geraint Thomas saved his biggest thank you for the teammate he deposed as champion, four-time winner Chris Froome.

As Thomas (Sky) stood atop the podium on the Champs Elysées in Paris in the yellow jersey of overall winner, with Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) to his right as runner-up and Froome to his left as the third-place getter, the Welshman recognised how their friendship dating back to their days on the Barloworld team (2007 to 2009) could have been at risk with both wanting to win the Tour.

In sync: Team Sky's Geraint Thomas and teammate Chris Froome en route to Paris on Sunday.

In sync: Team Sky's Geraint Thomas and teammate Chris Froome en route to Paris on Sunday.Credit:AP

Thomas held the Welsh flag high above his shoulders after receiving the yellow jersey – or ‘maillot jaune’ – as race winner.

Then, after standing to the sixth Tour winner’s rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ in seven years, Thomas began his acceptance speech by thanking his seven Sky teammates, naming them one by one.

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Thomas then came to “Froomey” and said: “Obviously it could have got awkward, there could have been tension, but you’ve been a great champion and I’ll always have respect for you,” and then continued running through the rest of his teammates’ names.

As his wife Sara looked on smiling, Thomas spoke of how he “got into cycling because of this race. I remember running home from school to watch it. The dream was always just to be a part of it.

"Now I am here in the yellow jersey it’s just insane. It’s a dream come true. Massive respect to Tom as well and all my rivals. It’s just a dream.

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"I just want to say a final thanks to the crowd. You’ve just been amazing. The amount of support I’ve got. Oh, and my wife.

“Kids, just dream big. If people tell you it can’t be done, keep going and believe in yourself. With hard work, everything pays off.”

And just like that, 105th Tour came to an end, with Thomas walking off the podium as the third British Tour champion after Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Froome in 2013, 2015, 2016 and last year.

Thomas’ official race time was 83 hours 17 minutes and 13 seconds. In second overall was Dumoulin at 1m 51s, with Froome at 2m 24s, an order unchanged by the final and 21st stage - 116km from Houilles to the Champs Elysées - won by Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) from German John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Frenchman Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ).

Thomas’ Tour victory provides huge cause for British cycling to celebrate, with him being a rider who has risen through their system in a career that has reaped success on both the track and road.

The same cannot for said for Australian cycling, for whom the Tour ended in stark contrast to the expectations shared by many when it began on July 7 in the Vendée region of western France.

Their hopes headed south early when Canberra’s defending green jersey winner, sprinter Michael Matthews, pulled out just before the start of stage five in Lorient after being struck down by illness that morning.

Tasmanian Richie Porte, one of the overall favourites, then crashed out for a second successive year on stage nine to Roubaix and before the first of 15 sectors of cobbles with a fractured collarbone.

Then the Australian registered Mitchelton-Scott team saw its hope of an overall podium finish by its British leader Adam Yates flounder. That left the team trying to salvage its Tour by chasing stage wins, which did not eventuate either, despite efforts to get in breaks.

When the Tour reached its finish on the Champs Elysées in Paris on Sunday night, it would have been understandable to think few Australians would be smiling. On the contrary, many Australians will feel happy for Thomas, who is well known to the domestic Australian cycling scene.

Thomas, who lives with his wife Sara in Monaco and loves rugby and a good swill of beer when the occasion merits, picked up gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games team pursuit.

And with every visit to Australia, the 32-year-old's popularity has risen.

Obviously it could have got awkward, but (Froome) you’ve been a great champion and I’ll always have respect for you.

Geraint Thomas

The Cardiff native who is also a three-time world champion in the team pursuit (2007, 2008 and 2012), has raced the Tour Down Under eight times – in 2007 and from 2011 to 2017 - often arriving early to spend extra weeks training in Australia.

In Victoria, he raced in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, winning a points race bronze medal, while he is certainly ‘au fait’ with Sydney’s cycling milieu. In February, 2005, Thomas was training in Sydney with the Great Britain track squad and had to undergo an operation to remove his spleen that had been ruptured by a piece of metal flinging up from the ground, into his wheel and then into him.

Geraint Thomas (far right) racing in Sydney back in 2006.

Geraint Thomas (far right) racing in Sydney back in 2006.Credit:Stu Baker

In February, 2006, Thomas even raced in the Tuesday night club criterium series at Heffron Park in Sydney’s southeast as a 20 year-old on the English track endurance squad that was in Australia preparing for the Commonwealth Games.

Throughout his career, Thomas has been known as an athlete who has kept his feet on the ground.
From his days as a student at Cardiff’s Whitchurch High School, where fellow alumni include the former British Lions captain Sam Warburton and Real Madrid footballer Gareth Bale, to today when the once young cyclist on the rise is now Tour de France champion.

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It is the beacon point in a career where his previous best wins were in the 2016 Paris-Nice and this year’s Criterium du Dauphiné. His best previous Tour finishes were 15th in 2015 and 2016 – both years when he rode to help Froome win.

It says enough that Thomas was slightly bewildered by the prospect of being labelled Wales’ biggest sportsman when it was put to him.

“It’s insane really. We had Sam Warburton as well, who is a big rugby player,” Thomas said on the eve of Sunday’s finale. “It’s crazy really.

“All the interest of Cardiff is nuts. We are a small nation. We really get behind anyone who is successful so it is really nice to have that.

“I will try to stay as I am obviously. By the sounds of things, it has gone crazy back home - I will look forward to celebrating with them.”