Monday 17 June 2019

'Speechless' Thomas insists Froome is still the main man

Team Sky's Geraint Thomas. Photo: PA Wire
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas. Photo: PA Wire

Tom Cary

Can he do it? That was the question on all of cycling's lips last night after Geraint Thomas made history by claiming yet another stunning stage victory, this time atop Alpe d'Huez on the queen stage of the 2018 Tour de France.

The records are beginning to tumble for the Welshman, who increased his lead over Sky team-mate Chris Froome to 1min 39secs as a result of this latest triumph.

In winning what was a dramatic five-up sprint for the line after a ding-dong battle up the famous 21-hairpin climb, Thomas became the first British rider to triumph on Alpe d'Huez.

Perhaps most incredibly of all, considering Thomas's reputation is not as a pure climber, he became the first rider in 42 years - since Joop Zoetemelk in 1976 - to claim back-to-back summit finishes at the Tour de France. The only other man to do it before that was Fausto Coppi in 1952.

No wonder Thomas looked so shocked afterwards. That is the sort of company he is now keeping.

"Honestly, I'm speechless," he said. "Not a chance in hell I thought I was going to win today."

The look of disbelief on his face bore the truth. It told of a man who was genuinely struggling to process what he had just achieved.

"It's unbelievable," he kept repeating. "I can't believe it."


With a flat stage today, we'll have to wait until the Pyrenees next week to see whether Thomas can become the third British winner of the Tour de France, although for the second day running he played down that possibility.

"Honestly, no," he replied when asked whether he was now starting to believe.

"I mean it when I say (Chris) Froome is still our leader. He knows how to race for three weeks. For me, who knows? I could have a bad day and lose 10 minutes."

Froome is still the safe bet. He has won four of the last five Tours de France is only 1min 39secs back. And for the moment, Sky appear to be backing him.

Significantly it was Froome, their team leader, who was being led out by Thomas, the race leader, up the final climb yesterday.

That was after a mammoth solo effort from Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) who broke clear about 70km from the finish and was only swallowed up in the last 3km.

As the leaders hit the final kilometres, it came down to a final battle between Thomas, Froome, Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Romain Bardet (AG2R) to fight for the stage win.

Meanwhile, Daniel Martin lost touch with the leaders 10km from the finish and lost 1min 45secs but remains in 10th place.

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