As Thomas stood on the podium in Paris, it is hard to think how he must have been feeling. A road career dedicated to the selfless aid of others, plagued by crashes and injury; Thomas’ 2018 triumph is a story of true redemption and justice.
His dream of becoming a professional cyclist started at an early age, joining the Maindy Flyers cycling club. His prowess was evident from the get go, blowing away riders far older and experienced than him.
In 2004, a successful Junior Paris-Roubaix saw him join the British Cycling Olympic Academy, setting him up for his Tour de France debut. Riding with Barloworld, he rode the French mountains for the first time in 2007, finishing in 140th place out of 141.
Beginnings of a career quickly turned to huge success as Thomas took the track in Beijing. Great Britain’s team of Thomas, Paul Manning, Ed Clancy and Bradley Wiggins set a world record time in the semi-final and claimed gold in the final, finishing more than two seconds ahead of second-placed New Zealand.
To debut at the Tour de France and then win an Olympic track Gold a year later shows an unbelievable amount of versatility and dedication on the saddle, especially for someone as young as Thomas, and he recieved his cherry on top of a fantastic year when he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.
After a turbulent 2009, he joined the newly formed Team Sky in 2010 alongside Chris Froome, where he would become a staple support rider in the team. Bradley Wiggins joined the team shortly after, as Team Sky went for Tour de France glory in 2011. A decent start went sour quickly, as team leader Wiggins crashed out of the race.
In 2012, Thomas went back to track for his first home Olympics in London. Not only did he claim his second gold medal in the team pursuit, this time he set a new world record with three new teammates, and followed that up with another win at the Track World Championships.
Now a double-Olympic and world champion, it was time for Thomas to focus on converting his track glory to the road.
Apart from riding to Commonwealth Gold in the men’s road race in 2014, the next few years were a tale of helping others for Thomas. Road cycling does not provide the immediate podium glory of the track for support riders and often being in the shadow of Wiggins and Froome, he found himself guiding and helping the chosen ones to their victories.
However Thomas put his body, mind and a lot of pain on the line again and again. In 2013, while supporting Froome, he crashed heavily in the opening stage, breaking his pelvis.
But such was his commitment to the team, Thomas rode the entire Tour de France selflessly in support of Chris Froome’s bid to win. For most of the race, he had to be lifted on and off his bike at the start and finish of each day. Froome went on to win the Tour de France.
Years of crashes, injuries and selfless support rides would follow and in 2015, it was déjà vu for Thomas. On stage 16, another rider lost control approaching a hairpin and collided with Thomas, causing him to crash head first into a telegraph pole and fall into a ditch.
Escaping serious injury, he again rode the rest of the race helping Froome to another victory in Paris.
For the years of selfless riding and personal sacrifice for others, it was only right that Thomas had his first major victory on the road. In 2016, he retained his his Volta ao Algarve title and also won the Paris-Nice race in March, a big moment for Thomas.
Come summer, it was time to support again, leading Froome to another Tour de France win. Thomas’ Olympic ambitions in Rio were focused on the road this time, but again he crashed, which all but ruined his chances of victory.
By the time 2017 swung round, plenty of classics were under now his belt and a year that could’ve been Thomas’ year, became a year to forget.
Victory at the Tour of the Alps – which is to the Giro d’Italia what Queens is to Wimbledon – certainly hinted at what could have been a glorious season.
He pulled on the Tour de France yellow jersey for the very first time after winning the stage one time trial, but then two crashes forced him to leave both the Tour and the Giro d’Italia, his big 2017 target, due to injury.
As if he decided he was not going to let 2018 evade him, Thomas set himself on the right path by winning the Criterium du Dauphine and the British National Time Trial Championship.
At the start of the Tour Chris Froome, the defending champion, was Team Sky’s designated leader and it was Thomas’s job to ride in support of him, helping guide him to a 5th victory.
But at key points in the high Alps Froome cracked and Thomas proved himself to be the stronger rider over the 3,351 kms of the Tour. Finally Thomas’ chance to win the biggest race of all had come and he achieved the victory after one of the most composed and measured executions of the tour in recent times.
Their job was not made easy, with eggs being thrown at the Sky team cars, fan meddling in the races and at one point, Thomas was grabbed by a spectator in an attempt to pull him off his bike. The team’s dominance in recent times and scepticism of the Team Sky riders amidst the doping allegations were the main reasons for this.
But they didn’t let it affect them, but rather galvanise the team, and a solid ride in the time trial saw Thomas win the Tour de France for the first time.
Wiping away tears Thomas said: “I can’t believe it. I’m welling up. I don’t know what to say. It is just overwhelming. I didn’t think about it all race and suddenly I won the Tour.
“It’s just overwhelming. I can’t speak man. It’s just incredible. I believed I could beat the guys here but to do it on the biggest stage of all over three weeks, it’s insane.
Geraint Thomas’ story is an extraordinary tale of dedication, sacrifice for others and repeated heartbreak. Always being in the shadows of his team and continuing to perservere in the face of defeat and pain would’ve made the standing on the podium in Paris all the more sweeter.
“He really is one of the special ones” – Shane Sutton