Wiggins backs Thomas to come back and win Tour de France after Bernal victory in Paris sunset

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A GOLDEN era ended for Britain’s cyclists as another one began for Colombia as Egan Bernal announced himself as a Tour de France champion.

Geraint Thomas stood proud, but beaten, on the second step of the podium in Paris — 12 months after he dropped the microphone on GB’s karaoke solo at the Glasto of cycling.

New Colombian hero Egan Bernal is congratulated on his Tour de France triumph by Team INEOS colleague Geraint Thomas as they finish together
Colombian hero Egan Bernal is congratulated on his Tour de France win by Team INEOS colleague Geraint Thomas as they finish together
AFP or licensors
Kiss is what it is all about as Egan Bernal takes in the greatest moment of his career
Kiss is what it is all about as Egan Bernal takes in the greatest moment of his youthful career so far
Reuters
Team INEOS rider Egan Bernal enjoys his triumph alongside team-mate and runner-up Geraint Thomas, plus third-placed Steven Kruijswijk
Team INEOS’ Egan Bernal enjoys his triumph alongside team-mate and runner-up Geraint Thomas, plus third-placed Steven Kruijswijk
Reuters

The final stage was won by Caleb Ewan in a Paris sprint, after riders drifted around the Louvre’s famous pyramid before hitting the Champs-Elysses.

And Geraint finished 1min 11sec on Team Ineos prodigy Bernal.

While in the last year, ‘G’ went on to win Sports Personality and the love of the nation — a younger, more precious talent was ready to re-write history half a world away in South America.

Thomas was outclassed in the mountains when it counted by Bernal, 22, after a year when the Welshman admitted he found the strains of being a defending champ difficult.

Much like troubled Champions League star Gareth Bale and retired Wales and Lions pal Sam Warburton — for the famous trio from Whitchurch High School in Cardiff, their time in the sun is over.

And boyo, has it been some ride. After last year’s superb surge into yellow last summer in the Alps, the afterburners never breathed the same fire.

There were three crashes on stage one, eight and 16, but somehow Geraint managed to stay on his bike till the end.

Not forgetting his Tour warm-up crash in Switzerland — that made it look like cycling’s most successful team were cursed under their new petrochemical sponsor Ineos.

HE COULD REDEFINE CYCLING

Chris Froome was not so lucky, after his nauseating tumble at the Criterium du Dauphine.

The four-time winner’s fateful decision to blow his nose on a time-trial recon nearly ended his career.

It remains to be seen whether Froome will get back to the giddying heights of Tour glory — with a tantalising fifth title making him the joint-most successful Tour rider ever.

At 22 Thomas’ raw talent was being tweaked and honed riding on Team GB’s awesome foursome in the Beijing Olympics, where he won team pursuit gold.

As for Froome, he was desperately trying to get his British passport and a European team to ride with — ending up at Barloworld with Thomas a year later.

At the same age, Bernal is a Tour winner, already an established name and could have 12 to 15 years at the top.

He is not the sort of man who needs fine tuning, honing and prodding like his Ineos team-mates, but is an incredible talent who could redefine the sport.

Cycling prodigy Egan Bernal enjoys a well-deserved taste of victory at the Champs Elysees in Paris
Cycling prodigy Egan Bernal enjoys a well-deserved taste of victory at the Champs Elysees in Paris
EPA
Colombia's Egan Bernal celebrates a famous first victory in the Tour de France
Colombia’s Egan Bernal celebrates a famous first win in the Tour de France
EPA
INEOS riders give new Tour de France winner Egan Bernal centre stage
INEOS riders give new Tour de France winner Egan Bernal centre stage
AP:Associated Press

Bernal doesn’t need a velodrome, he doesn’t need the Olympics, he just needs the Alps, the Pyrenees and thousands of South Americans to cheer him on as they have for the last three weeks.

Thomas said: “I haven’t even re-watched last year.

“Maybe when I’m old and grey, sat in my front room, with a beer belly and a whisky I can reminisce then.

“It’s obvious slightly mixed emotions but I can still be proud.

“Two years ago I was here with my arm in a sling with a broken collarbone watching Froomie win a fourth, just devastated that I wasn’t able to ride my bike.

“So two years on I’m slightly disappointed not to win a second Tour which is crazy really.

“I’m proud of how I managed to get myself into decent enough shape it hasn’t been a smooth run-in but this team is incredible, a pleasure to be a part of and proud to be a part of Egan winning his first Tour.

“I’m sure it’ll be the first of many but to still be on the podium is special.

“I’m glad to be going home tomorrow and to switch off and close the front door.

“Emotionally, mentally, physically it’s been draining. But still it’s enjoyable it’s the pinnacle of the sport, one to dream of when you’re a kid but at the same time it’s hard work.

“I’m looking forward to switching off and spending time with family now.”


Sir Bradley Wiggins said: “The winter he had and the elevation of fame he had in the UK, to come back and he said he’s proud of himself to have the fitness levels he had.

“He’ll have a very different winter now, in terms of normality, the level of fame. He’ll come back stronger, he’s got another Tour win in him for sure.”

“Absolutely, G is a real winner. G lives for this sport, he lives for this job. He’s a real family man as well but he will have learned so much from this season.

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