By Jack Vavasour
The Tour de France, cycling’s most prestigious race, a true testament to how far the human body can be pushed. Not only is this race regarded so highly by cyclists but by sportsmen and women of every sport around the globe.
This is a 23-day race with 21 stages, this is an endurance event stretched to the maximum. To wear the yellow jersey, one must overcome so many challenges, not only physical but psychological as well. For 115 years riders have come from around the world to compete in this tremendous event, but only one can leave wearing the yellow jersey.
Had you asked someone a year ago which Welsh sportsman we would be celebrating in the summer of 2018, many would have dared to dream that Gareth Bale might lead his countrymen into their first World Cup since 1958. Sadly, they didn’t even qualify. Some would suggest that Sam Warburton might have led his and Gatland’s men through a victorious Six Nations and a series win over Argentina. Wales finished second in the Six Nations and Warburton didn’t even play, having since retired due to injury.
All of these potential victories were unlikely and further highlights the impressive nature of the actual sporting great and what he has achieved. To find him we need look no further than to a schoolmate of both Bale and Warburton’s from Cardiff, Geraint Thomas- Winner of the Tour de France 2018.
Thomas has been in the eye of cycling enthusiasts for years, with two Olympic track Gold medals, a Commonwealth Games Gold and Bronze in 2014 and several years as part of the hugely successful Team Sky that has won six of the last seven Tour de France. Yet you would be forgiven if you were unaware of this Cardiff born 32-year-old before a few days ago.
However, Thomas has truly earnt his reputation at the highest level, with both impressive performances on the track and also on the road. He has supported some of the greatest riders, arguably in the tour’s history, most notably Chris Froome. Froome was chasing his record equalling 5th Tour de France victory, many expected Froome to once again steal the show and appear victorious at the end of the gruelling ordeal that is the Tour. Instead Thomas stepped up and challenged his team mate and ultimately won the yellow jersey. Many doubted that he could pull of such a feat with such a chequered history in Grand Tours, even crashing out in last year’s Tour de France.
Nevertheless, Thomas is no overnight success story, at 32 years old, and only 1 tour away from a record equalling most tours before first victory, Thomas has truly achieved this the hard way. He has come far from his debut tour in 2007 when he finished 140th out of the 141 riders who completed the race.
Wales’ latest sporting success story has constantly defied the odds, last year becoming the first Welshman ever to don the yellow jersey, this year he goes one better and becomes the third Brit and the first Welshman to win the Tour de France. Cardiff and Wales can be proud of a true champion.