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Dumoulin leads tributes as Thomas wins Tour de France

Dumoulin leads tributes as Thomas wins Tour de France

Geraint Thomas has all but won his first Tour de France after maintaining his overall lead on the penultimate stage of the race.

He finished with an advantage of almost two minutes over his nearest rival, Tom Dumoulin, in a performance built on constant pressure, taking small chunks of time out of the Dutchman on seven separate stages, resisting a flurry of attacks in the mountains before retaliating with assaults of his own.

Before Alexander Kristoff took victory in the final sprint on the Champs-Elysees, Thomas lined up with his Sky team-mates and posed for pictures while carrying the Welsh flag on the 116km stage from Houilles.

Riding for the Barloworld team at the time, Thomas was the youngest cyclist to start that 2007 Tour when it began from London.

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

Thomas always had "the engine", as his 2008 and 2012 Olympic team pursuit gold medals proved, but he looked more poised to win one-day races than a grand tour.

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A key helper in many of Froome's previous six Tour wins, there was a general feeling on this race - backed by a superb win in the Criterium du Dauphine stage race and fears that Froome's Giro d'Italia-winning efforts would soon tell - that it might be time for payback.

"My wife Michelle is expecting a baby any day now, so I'm going to be home tomorrow and hopefully have some down time with the family".

Geraint Thomas never flinched at whatever fans - or his rivals - threw at him or Team Sky.

In an interview, he said: "I can't believe it". "I'm still trying not to get carried away". "It's going to take a while to sink in", he said.

"I felt good. I felt strong".

American rider Lawson Craddock, who broke his shoulder in the opening stage and sits last overall, also broke down into tears upon reaching the finish.

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For years he had arrived in Paris as just another domestique in Sky's train, having served Froome or Bradley Wiggins, and there was no doubt he had earned his time to wear yellow.

Dumoulin had to console himself with his third career Tour stage win - all of which have come in individual time trials.

"I think we'll have some beers, and burgers tonight, but that's it".

But while the 28-year-old Slovenian celebrated, Dumoulin was furious at the finish, claiming Roglic "used the slipstream of the motorbike" that had moved in front of him shortly after the summit to build an advantage which, in the end, proved decisive.

Dumoulin misplaced his rainbow time trial world champion jersey, and his team had to scramble to make a new kit in the morning. According to Ellingworth, that victory ahead of two-time Tour de France victor Alberto Contador was a turning point. "Thomas was the absolute strongest over the three weeks, and he showed that every day".

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