Tour de France: Geraint Thomas to take lead into final stage, confirms overall win
Geraint Thomas has effectively won the Tour de France after finishing within two minutes of his closest competitor, Tom Dumoulin, in Saturday's individual time trial.
Thomas will take a lead of 1 minute, 51 seconds into Sunday's final stage to Paris, which is traditionally a procession. The British rider will now be allowed to ride at his own pace and is virtually guaranteed to be celebrating under the Champs-Elysees come Sunday evening.
Chris Froome gained over one minute on Primoz Roglic to move up into third in general classification, while Dumoulin recorded the fastest time to secure second, as well as the stage win.
"It's just overwhelming. I didn't think about winning the Tour de France for the whole race, and suddenly ... I've won the Tour, man!" Thomas said afterward. "I can't speak. It's just incredible. The last time I cried is when I got married. I don't know what's happening to me."
Saturday's time trial was a 31-kilometer race from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to the town of Espelette in southwest France.
Following Thomas' convincing display in the final mountain stage Friday, the Team Sky rider knew that he just had to finish within 2:04 of Dumoulin to secure the overall win.
Dumoulin is a world time trial champion and couldn't afford to be ruled out by Thomas. The Welshman started strongly and was fastest at both the first and second checkpoints, riding 15 seconds faster than the Dutchman with 10 kilometers to go.
But rather than push for another stage win, Thomas sensibly slowed and negotiated the final corners with care. He eventually finished with a time of 41:07, which was 14 seconds slower than Dumoulin but more than enough to secure the overall win.
"I felt good today. I felt strong in the time trial. I heard I was up, and I pushing a bit hard in the corners sometimes," Thomas said. "[Sports director] Nico [Portal] told me to take it easy and be a bit more relaxed, just to make sure I win the Tour. That's what I did. It was stressful. I believed I could beat the guys here. It was the biggest stage of all over three weeks. It's wonderful!"
2017 champion Froome missed out on the stage win by 1 second but crucially finished 1:11 ahead of Roglic to secure third and book a place on Sunday's podium.
1. Tom Dumoulin (NED) Team Sunweb 40:52
2. Chris Froome (GBR) Team Sky +1
3. Geraint Thomas (GBR) Team Sky +14
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) Team Sky +50
5. Søren Kragh (DEN) Team Sunweb +51
1. Geraint Thomas (GBR) Team Sky 80:30:37
2. Tom Dumoulin (NED) Team Sunweb +1:51
3. Chris Froome (GBR) Team Sky +2:24
4. Primož Roglic (SLO) Team LottoNL - Jumbo +3:22
5. Steven Kruijswijk (NED) Team LottoNL - Jumbo +6:08