Five talking points from stage 20 of the 2018 Tour de France

Analysis from the crucial final time trial

Geraint Thomas comes through unscathed

Geraint Thomas embraces his wife after setting up final victory in the 2018 Tour de France (Credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The only way Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) was going to lose the Tour de France today was either by crashing, or producing a time trial well below his usual level.

Despite one ropey corner he managed to avoid the latter, and – despite slowing down towards the end as he cautiously navigated the descent – put in a very fast ride to finish third on the stage.

Throughout his career on the road, there’s always been a feeling that Thomas has failed to make the most of his considerable talent. For years he tried to balance an interest in both the classics and stage races, becoming something of a jack of all trades who exceeded in no particular discipline.

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Even when he did appear to be on the brink of a huge result something would invariably go wrong, like at the 2015 Tour de France when, with a podium finish in sight, he crumbled on the third-to-last day.

In winning the Tour de France, however, Thomas has gone from a gifted nearly-man with a reputation for crashing to someone who has reached the very pinnacle of bike racing. No longer shall he be remembered as a rider of unfulfilled potential – now he is the rider who won the 2018 Tour de France.

Tom Dumoulin wins the stage in confusing circumstances

Tom Dumoulin took a fine victory on stage 20 (Credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) was the fastest man of the day, but wasn’t made aware of that fact for some time as confusion reigned at the end of the stage.

Although it initially seemed as though his time was just short of Chris Froome’s, the times were subsequently altered to indicate that Dumoulin’s time was in fact faster.

A period of uncertainty followed, as Froome sat in the hotseat with Dumoulin stood beside him, each watching Thomas on a monitor arrive at the finish slower than them, while wondering.

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Eventually Dumoulin was confirmed as stage winner, prompting an interview in which the delighted Dutchman proclaimed his joy at sealing what is a third career Tour victory, especially after a stressful morning in which he needed a new skinsuit made from scratch after his had gone missing.

The result also means that Dumoulin will finish second overall, making it two consecutive Grand Tour runner-up positions after also finishing second at the Giro in May.

Froome makes the podium…

Chris Froome climbed back onto the podium with an excellent time trial (Credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Although he narrowly missed out on the stage win, Chris Froome’s day will go down as a significant success after he pipped Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) for a place on the podium.

It had been expected to be a close duel between Froome and Roglic, with just thirteen seconds separating the two riders. Froome ultimately made up the deficit with ease, however, posting a time that was 1-11 quicker than the Slovenian.

Froome would not, of course, have taken a third place finish if offered it at the start of the race, but to pull out such a strong ride having struggled during the last few days in the Pyrenees is another example of what a formidable competitor he is.

His third place overall also puts the cherry on the cake of Sky’s perfect Tour de France, making it the first time since the 2012 Tour that they have placed two riders on the podium.

…at the expense of Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic endured a disappointing day to drop off the podium (Credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

One person’s triumph is another’s disappointment, and Froome’s pleasure at having made the podium will have been exceeded by Roglic’s pain at having missed it.

It’s been a sensational Tour for the Slovenian, who has in just his third Grand Tour taken like a duck to water in terms of challenging for GC.

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Given how strongly he road to win yesterday’s stage in the Pyrenees, and the fact that he is a world time trial silver medalist, it seemed likely that Roglic would hold on to third place, but could only manage a performance that was a little off his best, while Froome was on an absolute flyer.

Roglic revealed little in the post-race interview, answering questions with evasive, vague answers, delivered in much the same neutral tone as after his stage win yesterday. But he will underneath his calm demeanour he will no doubt be very disappointed.

Expect him to be back next year, this time as a fully-fledged GC rider with genuine expectations that he can push not just for a podium finish, but for overall victory.

GC riders don’t give specialists a chance at stage victory

Michael Hepburn was one of the time trial specialists who were left reeling by the GC men (Credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Often the last time trial stage of a Grand Tour is won by a time trial specialist far adrift from the top of the GC, who has benefited from resting in the preceding stages in which the yellow jersey contenders have had to go deep.

But that was always unlikely to be the case today, with so many quality time trilalists making up the top of the general classification.

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Young Australian Michael Hepburn (Mitchelton-Scott) was the early leader, before his time was narrowly beaten by Marc Soler (Movistar), but those riders ultimately finished the stage with the tenth and ninth best times respectively.

The only two non-GC riders to finish among the very best times were the ever-more-impressive young Dane Søren Kragh Andersen (in fifth), and – with a ride almost impressive as in Marseille last year when he missed the time trial win by just one second – Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski (fourth).

Both relished the opportunity to ride for themselves having done such sterling work in support of Dumoulin and Froome respectively – although both were also bettered by their team leaders on the stage.