Highlights, heartbreak and a star is born in nail-biting Tour de France

By Jeffrey Kitt July 30, 2018

Geraint Thomas is the first Tour de France winner from Wales. Image courtesy of Filip Bossuyt, under WikiMedia Commons.

Highlights and heartbreak, underachievers and surprise superstars: this year’s edition of the Tour de France kept the cycling world on its toes for 23 days and more than 3,300 kilometers.

Race winner Geraint Thomas became the first Welshman to take out cycling’s most famous title, and he was joined on the Parisian podium on Sunday with Tom Dumoulin and teammate Chris Froome.

“I can’t speak. It’s just incredible,” Thomas told reporters on Saturday. Thomas, 32, was considered an outside chance before the race with fans favouring teammate Froome to take out his fifth Tour de France. The Welshman’s darkhorse status was especially apparent with bookmakers, who marked his odds at anything from 33/1 to 66/1.

But Thomas impressed throughout the race, winning two stages and holding the yellow jersey for 11 days of the competition. The win comes on the back of consistent performances for Team Sky, where Thomas helped teammate Froome to his dominant performances of the last six years. But this year was different – this year was his.

The Colombian contingent fared well but must be disappointed with what could have been. Rigoberto Urán was considered a pre-race favourite after finishing second in last year’s Tour. Strong early stage showings saw Urán climb to fifth overall before disaster struck – the 31-year-old crashed heavily on cobblestones in Roubaix and sustained pain to his left leg and arm which compromised his ability to pedal. He withdrew from competition the following day.

Meanwhile young-gun sprinter Fernando Gaviria turned heads by winning two of the first five race stages – becoming only the second Colombian in history to wear the famous maillot jaune as the overall leader of the race. But the 23-year-old also faced an early exit after falling too far behind to reasonably make the cut.

Nairo Quintana finished as the best of the Colombians – finishing 10th at 14 minutes and 18 seconds off the pace. A personal highlight for the rider came on day 17 when he scored his first stage win at the Tour de France in five years. There was more good news for Quintana as his team Movistar took the team classification for the third time in four years.

Countryman Egan Bernal certified himself as one to watch after finishing the race in 15th position. As the youngest rider in the Tour, the 21-year-old has even been earmarked as a future star of the Sky Team.

Sky Team general manager Dave Brailsford told reporters he believed Bernal was destined for greatness. “I’ve searched and searched for the rider that could be the next Chris Froome, our next leader for the big laps, my choice was Bernal,” Brailsford said.

“I think he will be a future winner of the Tour, I truly believe it, I have rarely seen a talent with his ability, with the mental strength to have such a performance at such a young age and handle the challenges of this race, with all that we has contributed,” he said.

Rounding out the results included Peter Sagan with a record-equalling points classification win and Julian Alaphilippe winning the mountain classification.