By Andrew Dampf
Geraint Thomas won his first Tour de France title yesterday, concluding his transformation from a support rider into a champion of cycling’s biggest race.
The Welsh rider with Team Sky successfully defended his lead of 1 minute, 51 seconds over second-placed Tom Dumoulin in the mostly ceremonial final stage.
Thomas rode a yellow bicycle to match his yellow jersey and shared glasses of champagne with his teammates during the casual ride into Paris before buckling down to keep up with the other leaders on the cobblestones of the Champs-Elysees.
“It’s going to take a while to sink in,” Thomas said before draping the flag of Wales over his shoulders during the podium ceremony.
“Normally that stage is really hard but today I just seemed to float around it. I had goosebumps going around there. To ride around wearing this (yellow jersey) is a dream.”
Four-time champion Chris Froome, Thomas’s teammate, finished third, 2:24 behind, and rode next to Thomas as they crossed the line, with Froome applauding.
Thomas was a support rider during Froome’s four victories but he emerged as Sky’s strongest rider in this race when Froome crashed early on and couldn’t keep up in the mountains.
Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff with UAE Team Emirates won the last stage in a sprint finish, narrowly beating John Degenkolb and Arnaud Demare.
The mostly flat 116-kilometre (72-mile) leg began in Houilles just outside Paris and concluded with nine laps up and down the Champs-Elysees.
Ireland’s Dan Martin was named the most combative rider of the Tour — the first ever Irish winner of the award, which has been in existence since 1953 also comes with a cheque for €20,000.
The Irishman finished eighth overall despite suffering gruesome injuries in a stage eight crash, just two days after he won his second career Tour stage on the Mur de Bretagne.
“I’m not sure anybody’s ever won it (most combative rider) without winning it on a single day, but I just try my best every day,” the UAE Team Emirates rider said.
“I’ve always wanted to be on the podium in Paris but I didn’t think I’d do it that way.
“It might look like I’m attacking to entertain but it’s just my racing instinct. It’s always calculated, it’s always to try to get a result or it’s tactics-based. But I’m happy that people like the way I race.”
World champion Peter Sagan matched Erik Zabel’s record by winning the green jersey points competition for a sixth time.
French riders Julian Alaphilippe and Pierre Latour secured the polka-dot mountains jersey and best young rider white jersey, respectively.
The three-week race covered 3,351 kilometers (2,082 miles).
1. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) 83hrs 17mins 13secs
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Team Sunweb) +1min 51secs
3. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +2mins 24secs
4. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Team LottoNL-Jumbo) +3mins 22secs
5. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/Lotto NL-Jumbo) +6mins 8secs
6. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale) +6mins 57secs
7. Mikel Landa (Spa/Movistar) +7mins 37secs
8. Daniel Martin (Ire/UAE Team Emirates) +9mins 5secs
9. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus/Katusha-Alpecin) +12mins 37secs
10. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar Team) +14mins 18secs.