Geraint Thomas has admitted he is disappointed not to win a second Tour de France, but said it was “incredible” to support Egan Bernal to victory.
The Team Ineos duo finished first and second in Paris, with Bernal becoming the first ever Colombian to win the Tour and the youngest rider to take home the yellow jersey in the post-war era.
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Thomas looked to be the favourite in the opening two weeks of the race, but it was Bernal who rode away from their rivals to usurp long-standing leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) on the penultimate mountain stage.
Speaking after the final stage, Welshman Thomas said: “Two years ago I was here with my arm in a sling, with a broken collarbone and devastated I wasn’t able to ride my bike and two years on, I’m disappointed not to have won a second Tour.
“I’m proud of how I managed to get myself into good shape. It hasn’t been a smooth run into the Tour or during it really, but this team is incredible and it was a pleasure to be a part of Egan’s first of many [victories] and to be stood on the podium in second is still a big achievement.”
The 2019 Tour was an unpredictable ride until the final weekend in the Alps, with Thomas in second and trailing Alaphilippe.
Thomas had looked like the favourite to take over the yellow jersey if Alaphilippe cracked, by the Frenchman’s defiance set up a tense closing weekend.
But Bernal was the strongest in the Alps, taking back some time over the Galibier before delivering the fatal blow to Alaphilippe at the top of the Col de L’Iseran on stage 19, which was cut short due to a freak hailstorm and landslides.
The excitement over the three weeks took its toll on all the riders, even an experienced Grand Tour pro like Thomas.
“I’m glad to be going home and closing the front door and switching off,” the 33-year-old added.
“Emotionally, mentally, and physically it’s been draining and it’s still enjoyable – it’s the pinnacle of the sport and what you dream of when you were a kid, but at the same time it’s been hard work and I’m looking forward to switching off.”