Thomas effectively seals his 1st Tour de France title

ESPELETTE, France (AP) Geraint Thomas effectively sealed his first Tour de France title on Saturday by protecting the yellow jersey in the penultimate stage time trial.

Thomas, a Welsh rider with Team Sky, takes a lead of 1 minute, 51 seconds over Tom Dumoulin into the mostly ceremonial finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday.

Dumoulin won the stage by one second ahead of four-time champion Chris Froome, who leapfrogged Primoz Roglic into third place overall.

”After a difficult day yesterday I did not think it was possible,” Froome said. ”Im very, very happy. Being on the podium with Geraint is a dream.”

Thomas finished third in the 20th stage, 14 seconds behind, but that was more than enough to protect the lead of more than two minutes he had at the start of the day.

Wearing an all-yellow skin suit while riding a bike in the red, white and blue colors of the British flag, the 32-year-old Thomas was the last rider to start.

With a few drops of rain falling, Thomas was quick to regain control when his wheel appeared to lock up coming around a tricky, tight corner early in the route.

At the finish, Thomas let out a loud scream and held his arms out wide in celebration. He then embraced his wife, Sara Elen, as soon as he got off his bike.

Thomas is poised to become the third British rider – and first Welshman – to win the Tour after Bradley Wiggins and Froome. Also, he can make it Skys sixth victory in the last seven years.

Thomas claimed the yellow jersey by winning Stage 11 in the Alps, followed that up with another victory atop Alpe dHuez a day later and then defended his advantage through the Pyrenees.

Thomas was a support rider during Froomes title rides but he became Skys undisputed leader when Froome cracked in the grueling 17th stage through the Pyrenees.

An all-around rider who began his career on the track, Thomas helped Britain to gold medals in team pursuit at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics before turning his full attention to road racing.

Dumoulin clocked 40 minutes, 52 seconds over the hilly and technical 31-kilometer (19-mile) route.

It marked the first time in 12 years that the Tour passed through the Basque Country and fans waving the regions red, green and white flags lined the entire route in front of the areas traditional half-timbered houses.

It was Dumoulins second career stage win in the Tour, having also won a time trial in 2016. The Dutchman has now won six TTs overall at the three Grand Tours – the Tour, the Giro dItalia and the Spanish Vuelta – and he is also the time trial world champion.

”Its amazing to finish second in the Tour de France,” Dumoulin said. ”Im 27 years old and hopefully Ill get stronger, especially in the mountains, and hopefully one day I will be able to win.”

Associated Press writers Ciaran Fahey and Samuel Petrequin contributed.

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