Beer drinking rugby nut wins Tour de France
GERAINT Thomas is in dreamland, becoming the first Welshman to win the Tour de France.
Eleven years after finishing 140th in his debut Tour, Thomas was standing on the Champs Elysees podium as the champion of the world's biggest bike race.
Alexander Kristoff won the most sought-after sprint stage of the race when he beat John Degenkolb and Arnaud Demare to the line in Paris after a late attack from Yves Lampaert threatened to spoil the sprinters' party.
But it was the beer drinking, rugby fanatic Thomas who was on cloud nine. The affable Team Sky rider, who on Saturday broke down in tears during a TV interview, this time struggled to remember his teammates' names, momentarily forgot to thank his wife and finished with a mic drop.
"I've not got a good track record with speeches, so I'll keep it short," Thomas said.
But he paid special mention to teammate Chris Froome, Sky's team leader who saw his hopes of a fifth Tour crown fade.
"I just want to say thanks to the team. Obviously the riders, Luke Rowe, Egan Bernal, Jonathan Castroviejo, I'm going to forget them now. 'Froomey'," he said.
"Big respect to 'Froomey'. Obviously it could have gotten awkward, there could have been tension, but mate, you are a great champion. I always have respect for you and thanks a lot.
"Who else is in the team? "It's just, I'm pretty tired."
"He's like the guy next door - nobody has a bad word to say about him," said Dave Brailsford, the principal of a Sky team that, thanks to Thomas, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, have won cycling's marquee event six times in the past seven editions.
"You couldn't find a prouder Welshman. 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."
Thomas, who came into the race as Froome's deputy, took the yellow jersey in the first summit finish of the race - Stage 11 - and didn't let it go.
Composed under pressure, whether it be on the road or off, he won two stages along the way and was a deserving winner.
The 32-year-old finished 1min51sec ahead of Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and 2min24sec up on Froome to complete the final podium.
"Thomas was the absolute strongest over the last three weeks," said Dumoulin.
"He didn't make any mistakes, he was never put into trouble by anyone - including me - in the mountains or in any stage."
"The strongest rider won the Tour de France," Froome said.
"It was clear once we hit the Alps, Geraint was in better condition than I was."
Thomas was still pinching himself and will be for some time.
"I got into cycling because of this race. I can remember running home from school to watch the end of the Tour de France and the dream was always to be a part of it," Thomas said.
"That came true back in 2007 and wow, now I'm here stood in the yellow jersey. It's insane, it's incredible, it's a dream come true."
Thomas was thanking the crowd when he remembered his wife, Sara, who had surprised him a day earlier by flying in to congratulate him after his Tour-winning time trial.
"Oh my wife, I forgot my wife. Obviously big thanks to Sara. Without you I obviously wouldn't be stood here with all the support through thick and thin and obviously the down times," he said.
"I think that's the big thing for back home. Kids … just dream big. If people tell you it can't be done, believe in yourself and work hard and keep going.
"You'll have knocks, you'll have downs, but keep believing and anything is possible."
A two-time Olympic champion on the track for Great Britain before turning his focus to the road, Thomas has worked in the service of others for much of his career.
"We're just pretty emotional," Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford said.
"I think this has been the most emotional of all our victories."
Thomas is based in Monaco, but will receive a hero's reception in Wales, where he went to the same Cardiff school as Real Madrid soccer star Gareth Bale.
Slovakia's Peter Sagan sealed a record-equalling sixth green jersey, while Julian Alaphilippe upheld French honour by winning two stages to clinch the king of the mountains' polka dot jersey.
1. Geraint Thomas (WAL/SKY) 83hr17min13sec
2. Tom Dumoulin (NED/SUN) 1:51
3. Chris Froome (ENG/SKY) 2:24
4. Primoz Roglic (SLO/TLJ) 3:22
5. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/TLJ) 6:08
6. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 6:57
7. Mikel Landa (ESP/MOV) 7:37
8. Daniel Martin (IRL/UAD) 9:05
9. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/TKA) 12:37
10. Nairo Quintana (COLONEL/MOV) 14:18
CLASS STANDINGS POINTS
1. Peter Sagan (SVK/BOH) 467.
2. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/UAD) 196.
3. Arnaud Demare (FRA/GFC) 183.
4. John Degenkolb (GER/TFS) 148.
5. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/QST) 143.
6. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 134.
7. Geraint Thomas (WAL/SKY) 110.
8. Andrea Pasqualon (ITA/WGG) 107.
9. Daniel Martin (IRL/UAD) 98.
10. Sonny Colbrelli (ITA/TBM) 92.
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
1. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/QST) 170.
2. Warren Barguil (FRA/FST) 91.
3. Rafal Majka (POL/BOH) 76.
4. Geraint Thomas (WAL/SKY) 74.
5. Tom Dumoulin (NED/SUN) 63.
6. Primoz Roglic (SLO/TLJ) 56.
7. Daniel Martin (IRL/UAD) 41.
8. Nairo Quintana (COLONEL/MOV) 40.
9. Tanel Kangert (EST/AST) 39.
10. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/TLJ) 36.