Geraint Thomas wasn’t supposed to win the yellow jersey in 2018. But this was no normal Tour de France.
The Welshman had never finished higher than 15th overall at the Tour, but stunned the cycling world by blasting through the grueling French Alps and then holding off the favored Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin over the final week. The two-time Olympic gold medalist now adds his name to a list of cycling immortals that includes names like Greg LeMond, Miguel Indurain, and Bernand Hinault.
After coming in second the last mountain stage of the race Friday, all that was left for Thomas to sew up the yellow jersey was a perfunctory time trial. He finished third on the stage, 14 seconds behind winner Tom Dumoulin, who secured second overall in the Tour de France. Froome finished second on the stage by one second to move onto the final podium ahead of Primož Roglič, who finished a disappointing eighth on the stage.
After that, all that was left for Thomas was a ceremonial finish in Paris while Alexander Kristoff won a bunch sprint, finishing up what was a flawless race from a longtime workhorse.
Thomas’s victory was a surprising triumph in a chaotic race
A group of farmers threw bales of hay along the route of Stage 16 in a group protest. Police broke up the protest, but not before sending a cloud of caustic pepper spray into the peloton. This forced a 15 minute delay and effectively shortened the stage by 40 kilometers as riders worked to clear their eyes and lungs of the solution.
Stage 12 of the race was similarly chaotic. Fans lit flares that spewed smoke on the climb up Alpe d’Huez, creating the conditions for Vincenzo Nibali’s hard crash that forced him to abandon the race:
Another contender, Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert, went from a comfortable lead in Stage 16 to a broken kneecap after slipping off the road and over a wall in one of the race’s most dangerous downhills. Remarkably, he was able to finish the stage despite cycling the last 60-ish kilometers with a knee that steadily began to resemble a grapefruit.
Thomas also survived the madness of the hardest cobblestone stage in the Tour in more than 30 years, which is no small feat. That day also saw the loss of the chronically unfortunate Richie Porte, who slipped on a non-cobble sector and broke his collarbone, ending yet another promising Tour campaign much too soon.
And then there was Froome. The four-time yellow jersey winner was banned from the race by race organizers for his positive test for salbutamol, an asthma medication, last year. He was quickly cleared of any doping charges a day later by cycling’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale, but has faced his share of struggles on the course. Not only have rabid French fans put him in their crosshairs, but a Stage 1 crash cost him 51 seconds right out of the gate.
In the end, it was Froome’s Team Sky teammate Thomas standing tall and making his case as the world’s top cyclist. The Welsh standby tamed France’s mountains en route to a breakthrough win, earning his spot in history in the process, winning two stages and marking every challenge he faced with poise and ease.
In the chaos of the 2018 Tour, Thomas was the only sure thing. That may be a surprise for a rider who never finished higher than 15th in the Tour, but this win is well-earned after so many years riding in service of Froome and Team Sky.
For three weeks, there was unquestionably no one better than Thomas.
Tour de France general classification top 10
1. Geraint Thomas (Sky) - + 83h 17’ 13”
2. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) - + 1’ 51”
3. Chris Froome (Sky) - + 2’ 24”
4. Primož Roglič (LottoNL-Jumbo) - + 3’ 22”
5. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) - + 6’ 08”
6. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) - + 6’ 57”
7. Mikel Landa (Movistar) - + 7’ 37”
8. Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) - + 9’ 05”
9. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha Alpecin) - + 12’ 37”
10. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) - + 14’ 18”
Stage 21 results:
1. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) - 2h 46’ 36”
2. John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) - “
3. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) - “
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Date) - “
5. Cristophe Laporte (Cofidis) - “
6. Maximiliano Richeze (Quick-Step Floors) - “
7. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) - “
8. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) - “
9. Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) - “
10. Jasper de Buyst (Lotto Soudal) - “