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How Geraint Thomas became a Tour de France champion

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Geraint Thomas has become the first Welshman to triumph in the Tour de France after completing Sunday’s final and largely processional stage on the Champs-Elysees.

Thomas, the third British rider to win the race and the sixth in seven years, had operated in the shadow of Team Sky teammate Chris Froome up until this year’s tour.

Last year the 32-year-old cyclist became the first Welshman to wear the yellow jersey, but crashed out at the ninth stage after suffering a broken collarbone.

TOPSHOT - Great Britain's Geraint Thomas, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, crosses the finish line ta place third of the 17th stage of the 105th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, between Bagneres-de-Luchon and Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet, southwestern France, on July 25, 2018. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
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Thomas has never won a Grand Tour race

He was in front for much of the 2018 race and had a lead of one minute 51 seconds going into the final stage before safely crossing the finish line in Paris.

Sky News charts his journey from Cardiff schoolboy to Tour de France champion.

Early years

Thomas was born on 25 May 1986 in the Birchgrove district of the Welsh capital and throughout his childhood dreamed of becoming a professional cyclist.

He spent most of his free time at the Maindy Flyers velodrome honing his skills and joined a number of local clubs, after which he enjoyed some success at youth events – including national tournaments.

In 2004, he impressed at the Junior Paris-Roubaix and the following year he joined the British Cycling Olympic Academy.

Two years later, he turned professional on the road with Barloworld and competed in the Tour de France for the first time, finishing 140th.

LONDON - JULY 08: Portrait of Geraint Thomas of Great Britain and the Barloworld team prior to the start of Stage One of the Tour de France between London and Canterbury on July 8, 2007 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
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A youthful Thomas prepares for the 2007 Tour de France

Olympic glory

Having skipped the 2008 Tour de France to train in Britain for the Olympics in Beijing, Thomas had high expectations – and he certainly lived up to them.

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.

Thomas was then in Great Britain’s gold-winning team pursuit squad at the Track World Championships.

competes in the track cycling event held at the Laoshan Velodrome during Day 9 of the 2008 Beijing  Summer Olympic Games on August 17, 2008 in Beijing, China.
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Thomas celebrates after he and his team broke a world record in Beijing

Team Sky

In 2010, Thomas joined the newly-formed Team Sky and helped them make a winning debut at the Tour of Qatar.

He was one of six riders confirmed at the founding of the team, alongside Steve Cummings, Chris Froome, Russell Downing, Ian Stannard and Peter Kennaugh.

More riders soon joined, including Bradley Wiggins.

Thomas went on to win the British National Road Race Championships and earned his best ever finish at the Tour de France, coming 67th.

He went several better in 2011, finishing 31st overall and earning a new three-year contract with Team Sky, before performing brilliantly at the Tour of Britain – until a crash put paid to his chances of victory.

Thomas and Bradley Wiggins (right) were two of the first members of Team Sky
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Thomas and Bradley Wiggins (right) were two of the earliest members of Team Sky

London 2012

Ahead of his second Olympics, Thomas focused more on track cycling and the extra practice proved fruitful.

Not only did he claim his second gold medal in the team pursuit, this time setting a world record with three new teammates, he followed it 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.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03: (L-R) Edward Clancy, Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas of Great Britain celebrate with their gold medals during the medal ceremony for the Men's Team Pursuit Track Cycling final on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Velodrome on August 3, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
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(L-R) Edward Clancy, Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh and Thomas celebrate with their gold medals at London 2012

Road to victory

The Welshman showed the Commonwealth Games what it had been missing in 2014, marking his first appearance at the event since 2006 by winning the men’s road race.

He also won the 35th edition of the Bayern-Rundfahrt road race in Germany.

In 2015, he claimed victory at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, and also found time to get married to wife Sara Elen Thomas back in Wales in October.

They now live in Monaco, where Thomas does most of his training, but they also run a wedding venue in Chepstow.

Two more road victories would follow in 2016, retaining the Volta ao Algarve and winning at the Paris-Nice in France.

Wales' Geraint Thomas wins the Men's cycling road race during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland on August 3, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Thomas wins the men’s cycling road race at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

A season of highs and lows

Plenty of classics were under now his belt, but 2017 was a case of what might have been for the Welshman.

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.

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.

Thomas wore the yellow jersey for the first time at the 2017 Tour de France
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Thomas wore the yellow jersey for the first time at the 2017 Tour de France

How his time came

Thomas demonstrated just how prepared he was for the 2018 Tour de France by winning the warm-up race Criterium du Dauphine and the British National Time Trial Championship.

Geraint Thoms wears the overall leader's yellow jersey and Chri Froome is in the black and white Sky jersey
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Thomas is in pole position for the 2018 crown, seen here ahead of Chris Froome

He impressed from the off during the main event, but a stunning ride in the Alps to win stage 11 is what put him in pole position.

Thomas attacked six kilometres from the top of the final climb of the 108.5km stage from Albertville, overhauling rival Tom Dumoulin and then catching former teammate Mikel Nieve.

His surge to the top saw the tables turn within Team Sky, where Froome, who had claimed victory four times since 2013, considered the team leader.

More from Tour de France 2018

He was willing to sacrifice his chances of a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title to help Thomas achieve victory.

Thomas extended his lead further on the 17th stage on Wednesday and retained the yellow jersey on Thursday, putting him within touching distance of victory.

His third place finish in Saturday’s time trial race from Saint-Pee-Sur-Nivelle to Espelette made it almost certain he would stand on top of the podium after Sunday’s processional stage.

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