Where and how Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France

Seven stages that made the difference - Analysis

After twenty-one stages and over 2,000 miles of racing, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) was crowned the 2018 Tour de France winner. The Welshman's win was based on four foundations: a flawless opening nine days in which he was the only contender to avoid time losses, an extraordinarily strong Team Sky squad, his ability to pick up bonus seconds, and of course strong legs in the mountains.  

Cyclingnews looks back at when and where the 2018 Tour de France was won.  

Stage 1 - 201km Noirmoutier-En-L'Ïle - Fontenay-Le-Comte  

In hindsight, this was the beginning of the end for Chris Froome's Tour de France challenge. He may have steadily climbed the overall standings after an auspicious start but to concede 51 seconds due to a late fall and a frantic chase ensured that Thomas was always one step ahead of his erstwhile team leader.

Froome occupied second overall from the Alps until the stage to Luchon, at which point his hopes of retaining his Tour title began to fade. Thomas' ascendancy can also be traced to the opening day in which little happened until a spate of falls saw Froome and every other Team Sky rider lose time. Thomas was the sole rider for the British team to make the first group of 63riders. In a race of formulaic consistency, the time gain was substantial, and arguably the day Thomas truly ignited his Tour challenge, with Richie Porte, Adam Yates, and Nairo Quintana all losing significant ground.  

Top three on GC after stage 1:

1. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors

2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe

3. Marcel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin

15. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 10 seconds    

Stage 3 - 35.5km Cholet (TTT)  

BMC Racing waved goodbye to team time trialing at the Tour de France with a win, while Team Sky were best of the rest at four seconds.

This was the first time that Thomas put time into Tom Dumoulin - there would be six similar episodes before the race reached Paris - but this was also the stage in which LottoNL Jumbo lost 1:11 to Team Sky. At the time it was written off as a below-par team performance from the Dutch outfit, with few considering that it would have such a dramatic effect on the final standings. However the time lost here by Roglic altered his chances of making the podium but it also shaped the race in another way, giving him some freedom to attack off the front at places like Mende.  

Top three on GC after stage 3:

1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team

2. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team

3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 3 seconds

Geraint Thomas at the head of the Team Sky formation     

Stage 6 - 181km Brest - Mûr de Bretagne Guerléda  

Stage 6 offered the first glimpse that Primoz Roglic was stronger than his LottoNL-Jumbo teammate Steven Kruijswijk, with the Slovenian rider in the group that contained Thomas, Porte, and Quintana. Froome lost another five seconds to Thomas, who picked up two seconds at the first ascent of the climb, while Dan Martin took his second Tour de France stage.

The most significant result was the time Dumoulin lost, with the Dutchman dropping 50 seconds to Thomas after a late mechanical and then being slapped with a 20-second penalty for drafting. Romain Bardet shed 31 seconds but Dumoulin's position was far more critical to the overall complexion of the race. The Giro runner-up slipped to 19th overall, 1:20 down on Thomas and with Vincenzo Nibali Roglic, Froome, Yates, Landa, Porte, and Uran all ahead of him.

Thomas was now in second overall, just three seconds down on Greg Van Avermaet, and ahead of all his GC rivals. At this point, Dumoulin had to consider several tactical battles between himself and other riders before he could look to take on Thomas. With the time trial coming so late in the race, Dumoulin would have to go all out in the Alps. The Welshman, on the other hand, was now in the strongest position possible, and without having to control the race due to BMC's occupation of yellow. Thomas could remain patient, draw his rivals out through the use of his team, and then capitalise as the race entered the Alps.  

Top three on GC after stage 6:

1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team

2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 2 seconds

3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team  at 5 seconds    

Stage 11 108.5km Albertville - La Rosière    

Geraint Thomas had worn yellow before, just 12 months ago after the opening time trial in Düsseldorf, but this was different. Winning his first mountain stage of the race, distancing every one of his rivals through Team Sky's choreographed dominance on the road to La Rosiere was a remarkable performance that saw Team Sky finish first and third.

Only Tom Dumoulin, through a valiant attack before the final climb, and Dan Martin put up a fight, with Bardet, Nibali, and Quintana canceling each other out and looking flat when the final accelerations began. Roglic finished in the Nibali group, once again putting time in on Kruijswijk, while Movistar were left wondering what had gone wrong after Valverde was essentially wasted after both Landa and Quintana lost time.

Thomas's two attacks, first to catch Dumoulin and then to distance the Team Sunweb rider, were telling and by the end of the stage the Welshman held a 1:25 lead over Froome, while Dumoulin was a further 19 seconds in arrears.

At that point no other riders were within two minutes of Thomas on GC. The 32-year-old had come through the first nine stages without making a single mistake and by La Rosiere that groundwork was starting to show. Quintana was now over three minutes down, while Zakarin, Yates, Mollema, and Majka were out of the equation entirely.   

Top three on GC after stage 11:

1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 

2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1:25

3. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb 1:44      

Stage 12 175.5km Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arc - Alpe d'Huez

If La Rosiere was the ground on which Thomas announced himself as Froome's successor, then Alpe d'Huez was his coronation.

On the legendary climb, he showed another side to his skill set, absorbing attacks from rivals before rolling out a powerful sprint to the line. The time gaps might have been small - albeit he picked up another 10-second time bonus - but this was proof that the Welshman was further the strongest rider in the race.

A stand-out ride from Kruijswijk, with a 75km solo break, threatened Team Sky's command and rule approach, and but for a response from Egan Bernal on the final climb, the British team could have imploded. However, at the line Thomas had put time into all his rivals and once again distanced Froome.

Dan Martin cracked after his exploits from the previous stage, while Nibali was forced out after a crash involving the barriers and those on the roadside. The top three remained unchanged but Roglic had moved up to fifth, with Dumoulin narrowing the gap to Froome to just 11 seconds. It looked as though the podium had been decided.  

Top three on GC after stage 12:

1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky

2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1:39

3. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb 1:50

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) wins on the Alpe d'Huez    

Stage 17 - 65km Bagnères-de-Luchon - Saint-Lary-Soulan (Col de Portet)  

No stage for Thomas this time but this was arguably his most impressive ride in the mountains at this year's Tour, and the stage that effectively sealed his title.

After the dead rubber in Luchon the day before, this was the stage in which the race was supposed to truly come alive. At times it did, with LottoNL-Jumbo, AGR2 La Mondiale and Movistar laying the groundwork before Dan Martin, and then stage winner Quintana attacked the final ascent.

Roglic and Dumoulin both tested Thomas, and although Froome slipped back inside the closing kilometers, the maillot jaune held firm and even managed to find five seconds on the pair - plus a four-second time bonus at the line.

All the questions about being a two-week wonder and if fatigue would be Thomas' undoing were duly answered. Dumoulin may have moved ahead of Froome but his deficit to Thomas had grown and for the fifth time over five crucial stages. It may have only been nine seconds on this occasion but the accumulation of these marginal time gains had grown to 1:59.

As for Froome, his challenge was now over, with Roglic breathing down his next just 16 seconds back.  

Top three on GC after stage 17:

1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky

2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb at 1:59

3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 2:31    

Stage 19 200.5 km Lourdes - Laruns  

This was the final chance for Dumoulin and Roglic to crack Thomas. They and their team did the hard part, isolating the Welshman and even dropping Froome on the final climb. However when the attacks came, Thomas matched Dumoulin, and the Dutchman was forced to chase Roglic for fear of losing his second place.

The sight of Froome losing ground spurred on the opposition but Thomas held firm. Froome managed to make it back on the descent but Roglic was too strong and despite accusations of drafting from the leading motorbike, he did enough to take his second stage win in two years and nudge Froome down to fourth.

Would the Slovenian next dislodge Dumoulin and move into second in the final time trial? Thomas did not seem concerned. He picked up another time bonus at the finish to extend is lead over to Dumoulin to 2:05.  

Top three on GC after stage 19:

1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky

2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb 2:05

3. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo at 2:24    

Stage 20 31 km Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle - Espelette (ITT)  

The final brushstrokes were added to Thomas' yellow canvas with third place in the final time trial and an emotional celebration as the Welshman crossed the line.

For three weeks Thomas toed the party line and gave diplomatic answers as he looked to quell speculation about Team Sky leadership, ease tensions out on the French roads and pass pressure on to others.

In the final test against the clock, he shed 14 seconds to Dumoulin and 13 to Froome, with Roglic's podium challenge, and outside chance of taking second, surprisingly evaporating in the humidity of a French afternoon.    

Top three on GC after stage 20 and in Paris:

1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky

2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb 1:51

3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 2:24

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) on the final podium at the Tour de France

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