• Last year's race winner Geraint Thomas celebrates his team-mate Egan Bernal's historic victory to become the first Colombian to win the Tour de France. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Despite being honoured to shepherd 22-year-old Colombian team-mate Egan Bernal to his first Grand Tour victory, Geraint Thomas says he is motivated by the disappointment of not repeating as Tour de France champion.
By
Cycling Central

28 Jul 2019 - 6:34 AM  UPDATED 28 Jul 2019 - 7:13 AM

At 33 years of age, one year shy of team-mate and four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, last year's champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) believes he has one more Tour victory in his legs despite being set to finish second to another team-mate Egan Bernal, who is 10 years his junior, along the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday.

"I think so," Thomas told a horde of media when asked if could win another yellow jersey following his fifth-place result just off the wheel of Bernal atop the weather-shortened Stage 20 summit finish of Val Thorens Saturday.

Nibali triumphs as Bernal secures yellow
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) outlasted the favourites on the shortened Stage 20 of the Tour de France, jumping clear of the breakaway and surviving all the way to the finish. Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) wasn't placed in trouble as he and his team defended his yellow jersey.

"A lot of people probably don't think so, but whatever. That spurs me on. One of my mates texted me earlier and said 'good job you're second in Tour'. If someone had said that a few years ago not many people would have believed but now it's disappointing to come second and not go back-to-back. I've got that belief."

It has been a taxing 12 months since his own victory in 2018, a complete about-face which is not lost on the Welshman, who took the reins of the team formerly known as Sky when leader Chris Froome faltered in his bid for a record-tying fifth Tour victory.

"It's tough to come back to the same level," he said. "There are so many distractions to deal with all that. You get a few knocks and crashes, but I felt like I managed to get myself in good shape here. It didn't quite happen for me but the main thing was that we won as a team.

"But it's been night and day between this year and last year. This year it felt like any little thing that could go wrong did."

"Even in the run-up to the Tour, it wasn't plain sailing and there were always things happening. It was tough but I had to stay positive and keep fighting. That's what I had. I would have loved to have won but the fact that Egan did makes it OK in the end."

With Froome, who finished third on general classification last year, at home recovering from a life-threatening, season-ending crash at Critérium du Dauphiné last month, as well as 2018 race runner-up Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) out with a pre-existing knee injury, Thomas was a favourite to repeat despite being asked to share leadership with Bernal by Ineos.

Froome promoted to 2011 La Vuelta winner
Kenyan-born Briton Chris Froome has reportedly been awarded 2011 Vuelta a España victory after Juan José Cobo has been excluded for doping.

When asked if he believed the 22-year-old Colombian was ready to win the Tour, Thomas admittedly had is own doubts initially while still acknowledging Bernal's extraordinaire skills and character.

"To be honest, no," he said. "But the talent is there to see from the very start. He's improving all the time and he's born to go uphill fast. He's got the best team around him and he's got many great years in front of him. He's got good support with family. He's a humble guy, and has a very bright future."