Who was the first Welshman to win the Tour De France?

The first Welshman to win one of the cycling worlds toughest challenges is a 32 year old cyclist named Geraint Thomas from Birchgrove in Cardiff, Wales. He won the Tour De France in 2018.

Geraint started cycling at the age of 10 at the Maindy Flyers velodrome and was soon noticed by Rod Ellingworth, performance director at Team Sky around three years later.

When Geraint Thomas was 14 years old his coaches realised that he could go very fast around the speed track.

Geraint had some competitive success in under 14’s & 16’s events, which including National Championships. In 2004 he won his first notable success when he won a silver medal in the points race at the 2004 UEC European Track Championships.

Geraint Thomas was the youngest member to join the British pursuit team during the world championships in 2006. In 2008 and 2012 alongside Bradley Wiggins, he won Olympic gold medals. Geraint Thomas decided to leave track cycling and focus more on road racing.

In 2007, Thomas made his Tour de France debut becoming the youngest rider in the race as Barloworld picked up one of the three wildcard spots allocated for the race.

Before Geraint Thomas, the last Welshman to compete in this race was Colin Lewis in 1967. In this year, Thomas completed his first Tour de France, finishing 140th out of 141 finishers.

Geraint opted not to take part in the 2008 Tour de France and trained in Britain instead for the Olympics in Beijing.

Great Britain’s team of Thomas, Paul Manning, Ed Clancy and Bradley Wiggins, broke and set new world record times in the semi-final and claimed gold in the final. They were more than two seconds ahead of second-placed New Zealand.

Also in 2008, Thomas was part of Great Britain’s gold-winning team pursuit squad at the Track World Championships.

However, in 2009 Geraint suffered a terrible crash during the time trial stage at Tirreno–Adriatico in Macerata, Italy. He misjudged a corner and crashed into a safety barrier breaking his pelvis and fracturing his nose in the fall.

After recovering from his injuries, 2010 saw Thomas join the newly-formed Team Sky and helped them make a winning debut at the Tour of Qatar.

He was one of six riders confirmed at the founding of the team, alongside Steve Cummings, Chris Froome, Russell Downing, Ian Stannard and Peter Kennaugh. More riders soon joined, which including Bradley Wiggins.

Thomas went on to win the British National Road Race Championships and earned his best ever finish at the Tour de France, coming 67th.

He went several better in the Tour De France of 2011, finishing 31st overall and earning a new three-year contract with Team Sky. He was also performing brilliantly at the Tour of Britain, until a crash ended his chances of victory.

In 2017 Geraint Thomas won the first stage of the Tour de France, so not only was he the first Welshman, but he was only the eighth cyclist from the United Kingdom, to wear the yellow jersey.

Unfortunately, during Stage 9 of that same year he crashed out on a slippery wet hill descent which left him with a broken collarbone.

Thomas was named as joint leader with Chris Froome in the 2018 Tour de France for Team Sky. But Froome had a crash at stage 1 and lost time to Thomas. Thomas with Team Sky finished second behind BMC Racing Team in the team time trial on Stage 2, and remained in second place when they started the Alps races at Stage 10.

At Stage 11, Thomas attacked in the final kilometre to take the stage win and the race leader’s Yellow Jersey. The following day, Thomas again won Stage 12 with a sprint finish at Alpe d’Huez ahead of Dumoulin and Froome.

Thomas became the first rider to win a Tour de France stage on Alpe d’Huez in the Yellow Jersey and the first British winner on Alpe d’Huez in the Tour de France.

Thomas kept on extending his lead throughout the three Pyrenean stages, being placed third behind stage winner Nairo Quintana and consolidated his position in the yellow jersey by picking up six bonus seconds in the sprint, extending his lead over Dumoulin to 2 minutes, 5 seconds.

The penultimate stage was a 31 km time trial, which Dumoulin won. Thomas survived a scare when his back wheel locked, but without injury or accident he completed the time trial successfully, finishing fourteen seconds behind Dumoulin, which still meant Thomas lead by 1 min 51s into the final stage.

Thomas held on to his lead all the way to Paris. He became only the third ever British, first British-born and first Welsh cyclist to win the Tour de France.

In September 2018, the Wales National Velodrome in Newport was officially renamed the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome.

Thomas attended the renaming ceremony after he completed the first stage of the 2018 Tour of Britain which finished in the city.

In December 2018, Thomas won the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year for the second time

He also won the main BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award that same year and was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to cycling.

An interesting fun fact is that he attended the same school, Whitchurch High School, as Wales and Real Madrid footballer Gareth Bale and Welsh Rugby international Sam Warburton.