Geraint Thomas can still win another Tour de France, according to Britain’s first winner, Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Thomas finished this year’s tour in second place on Sunday, behind teammate Egan Bernal, a year after becoming the first Welshman to win cycling’s greatest race.
The Cardiff rider conceded some disappointment at handing over his title, but his runners-up spot is by some distance the second-best placing at any grand tour event in his entire career.
Thomas also went into this year’s race after a year during which the extended round of sponsorship, marketing and celebrity duties – the endless chat show appearances and photo-shoots – had left him further behind his regular starting point in terms of preparation for the most prestigious race of the season.
But Wiggins, who became the first British rider to win the tour in 2012, believes the 33-year-old Thomas is still capable of triumphing again – even though many are predicting an era of dominance for 22-year-old Bernal.
“He (Geraint) will come back stronger and he’s got another tour win in him, for sure,” said Wiggins.
“I think he will take a lot from this season. He craves a lot of normality now because he’s been under a lot of pressure this season.
“Winning and what followed last year, the elevation of his fame in the UK – coming back from that has been hard and he’s rightly proud to come back and achieve his fitness levels.
“That will give him confidence and he’ll have a very different winter this year to last. It will be back to normality.
“He will have learned so much from this season. It almost went too well for him last year.
“There was no pressure or expectation on him last year because it was all about Chris Froome.
“They have not had Chris Froome this year and G has stepped up as the ultimate team leader, the father figure, the guiding influence for Egan Bernal. But he also had the legs to win himself.”
Bernal, who crossed the line in Paris behind final stage winner Caleb Ewan from Australia, is the third-youngest winner of the Tour and his success makes him the seventh rider in eight years from a Dave Brailsford-managed team to win the Tour.
North Walian Brailsford praised Thomas’s resilience despite the setbacks in his title defence.
“Geraint’s ridden really well here, considering that a lot wrote him off after the winter,” he said.
“This whole theory that he can’t win after the first time — he deserves a lot of credit for getting himself in the shape he did. Having missed the racing he was supposed to have, he’s done terrifically well.
“He was very close to winning this. He just had that little block in the middle where he could have stepped up and he could have been right up there.”
Thomas himself will now be part of a trio of Team Ineos riders with claims of leadership who could all be on the start line at next year’s race – should Froome recover fitness after his recent injuries.
“If all three of us are there on the start line – me, Froomey and Egan – jeez, we’re going to have some questions about leadership,” said Thomas.
“But the other teams will have to answer those questions on the road. We’ve always been honest, clear and communicated with each other, so it will be great to have that strength next year.
“I feel proud. Two years ago, I was here with my arm in a sling and a broken collarbone, watching Froomey win his fourth title.
“I was just devastated not to be able to ride my bike. Two years on and I’m disappointed to finish second and not win my second tour, which is crazy, really.
“I’m proud of how I managed to get myself into decent shape. It wasn’t the smoothest run-in to the race or during it. But the team is incredible and it’s just a pleasure to be part of it.
“To be part of Egan winning his first tour – which I’m sure will be the first of many. To be stood on the podium, after finishing second, is still a big achievement.
“I’m be glad to go home, close the front doo and get away from thing. Emotionally and physically, this tour has been draining. It’s still been enjoyable – it’s the pinnacle of the sport and what you dream about when you’re a kid.
“But it’s also been hard work and I’m looking forward to just switching off.
“I haven’t even watched last year’s race. Maybe when I’m old and grey and sat in my front room with a beer belly and a whiskey, I can reminisce.”
Final general classification standings:
- Egan Bernal (Col/Ineos) 82hrs 57mins 00secs
- Geraint Thomas (GB/Ineos) +1min 11secs
- Steven Kruijswijk (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) +1min 31secs
- Emanuel Buchmann (Ger/Bora-Hansgrohe) +1min 56secs
- Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/ Deceuninck-Quick Step) +3mins 45secs
- Mikel Landa (Spa/Movistar) +4mins 23secs
- Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education First) +5mins 15secs
- Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +5mins 30secs
- Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +6mins 12secs
- Warren Barguil (Fra/Arkea-Samsic) +7mins 32secs
Stage 21 result:
- Caleb Ewan (Aus/Lotto-Soudal)3hrs 04mins 08’secs
- Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) Same time
- Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita/Total Direct Energie)
- Max Richeze (Arg/Deceuninck-Quick-Step)
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Dimension Data)
- Andre Griepel (Ger/Arkea-Samsic)
- Matteo Trentin (Ita/Mitchelton-Scott)
- Jasper Stuyven (Bel/Trek-Segafredo)
- Nikias Arndt (Ger/Sunweb)
- Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-hansgrohe)