Thomas passes final mountain test as Tour de France glory draws ever nearer

Rather fittingly for a man who helps run a wedding business with his wife, Geraint Thomas' moment as a Tour de France bridesmaid is nearly over.

For so many years the double Olympic champion has had to bide his time in unrelenting patience, admirably doing his super domestique duties as Team Sky teammate Chris Froome romped to four Tour titles.

But, so long as one time trial and one procession to Paris go to plan, Thomas will take centre stage all on his own.

Since stage 11 the yellow jersey has been his, despite the wave of pressure, hills and challenges thrown at him, tasks he has thus far passed with flying colours.

He will say that two stages still remain, and they do, but for the 32-year-old Welshman the champagne is very much on ice, another moment of history set to come for his nation.

“It’s good to get through that day. I am pretty tired,” he said.

“We knew we could come under a lot of pressure but the boys were really good. I was able to respond to the attacks and the descent was fast.

“I never thought I was going to get dropped but it was hard for sure.

“I had make Tom Dumoulin do everything. It’s the first time I have seen him get a bit tired. Now I need to ride for 30k as hard as I can.”

Twelve months ago, an opening stage victory saw Thomas become the first Welsh rider to wear the yellow jersey, just a month after being the first Brit to win the Tour of the Alps.

He wasn’t to finish the grand race that year, breaking his collarbone on a stage nine descent, but the 2018 beast is a quite different one on the hills and flats of France.

Each stage that passes is one predicted to be his downfall, each time he cruises through – a second place finish on stage 19 seeing him increase the lead beyond two minutes over Dumoulin.

Former ski jumper Primoz Roglic took the victory by 19 seconds ahead of the Brit, who somehow found the energy required to pip Romain Bardet to the line in a sprint.

With that came six bonus seconds but more crucially he has climbed the last of his mountains, with Saturday’s 31km time trial all that is preventing Thomas from top spot.

Before that however came another test of his credentials, expecting the worst and hoping for the best in what was always going to be one of the toughest stages of the Tour, the mountains graced for the last time.

The Pyrenees can reduce even the best of them to their knees but Thomas held firm – a characteristic that has graced his Tour and then some, on and off the bike.

More than 2,000 metres of climbing came his way over the Col du Tourmalet but still he had the physical and mental skill to find more, calmness personified as he did so.

In the final chance for his rivals to put Thomas under pressure, he was tested. Former teammate Mikel Landa and two-time podium finisher Romain Bardet tried their luck from long-range, while Roglic and Dumoulin isolated Thomas on the final climb, but not once did he look like cracking.

This year marked the first time Thomas targeted Le Tour from the outset, a decision that needs no justification hereon, however it finishes.

But even throughout this 105th edition his role has often been that of a support of Froome, just as he has done so often with the four-time winner and Sir Bradley Wiggins beforehand.

Yet dreams aren’t made from watching others wear the jersey you strive for in Paris – the Thomas who watched the Tour as a child will tell you that.

Sportsbeat 2018