Geraint Thomas on the verge of Tour de France victory

Dan Martin loses more than two minutes in time trial but is set to finish in eighth place

Geraint Thomas celebrates as he crosses the line in the 20th stage of the Tour de France. Photograph: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

Geraint Thomas celebrates as he crosses the line in the 20th stage of the Tour de France. Photograph: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

 

Geraint Thomas is set to win Tour de France after protecting his yellow jersey on Saturday’s stage 20 time trial from Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle to Espelette.

Thomas will become the third British winner of the race, joining Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, with the trio winning six of the last seven editions, all in Team Sky colours.

His closest rival at the start of the day, Tom Dumoulin, won the stage by one second from Chris Froome, but with Thomas only 14 seconds back the Welshman had more than enough in hand.

Meanwhile Dan Martin shipped more than two minutes in the time trial, but the UAE Team Emirates rider — named the most combative in the Tour overall — did enough to protect his top 10 place as he is set to finish eighth overall.

Thomas will carry a lead of one minute and 51 seconds into Sunday’s traditional procession into Paris before the sprinters fight it out for glory on the Champs-Elysees.

Thomas was embraced by his wife Sara and Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford at the finish, and appeared to wipe away a tear.

“I can’t believe it,” he said.

Froome, who came here looking for a record-equalling fifth Tour title and seeking a rare Giro-Tour double, had to settle for third place, taking back the final podium spot from LottoNL-Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic with his second place on the day.

There was brief confusion when the timing splits appeared to show Froome had beaten Dumoulin by one second to take the stage, though it was soon corrected.

“That’s crazy,” Dumoulin said. “I didn’t know anything about split times and I still thought Froome was one second ahead of me when I crossed the line. Wow.”

Thomas emulates Wiggins in converting himself from an Olympic team pursuit champion into the winner of the world’s biggest road race.

The 32-year-old had never before finished in the top 10 of a Grand Tour, though, in his only previous serious attempt to win one, he was forced to withdraw following a crash midway through last year’s Giro d’Italia.

Intermittent rain, the first significant downfall of the entire Tour, created unpredictable conditions on Saturday’s 31km course.

There was one significant scare for Thomas with around 19km to go when the bike almost slipped from underneath him on a right-hand bend.

Thomas may have known he had a buffer to play with, but he was not taking it easy as he was fastest through the first and second splits before grinding up the Col de Pinodieta and dropping back.

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

The Team Sunweb rider’s day did not get off to an ideal start when he could not find his time trial skinsuit in the morning.

But with his clothing sponsor based just across the Spanish border in San Sebastian, an emergency call was placed and they whipped him up a new set of the world champion’s rainbow stripes in time.

Tour de France positions

Stage 20: 1 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb at 40mins 52secs, 2 Chris Froome (Gbr) Team Sky at 1secs, 3 Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Team Sky at 14secs, 4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky at 50secs, 5 S0ren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb at 51secs, 6 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors at 52secs, 7 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin at 1min 2secs, 8 Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1min 12secs, 9 Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team at 1min 22secs, 10 Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott at 1min 23secs, 11 Adam Yates (Gbr) Mitchelton-Scott at 1min 26secs, 12 Stefan Kung (Swi) BMC Racing Team , 13 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team at 1min 31secs, 14 Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Team Sky , 15 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 1min 41secs, 16 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1min 45secs, 17 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky at 1min 49secs, 18 Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Sunweb at 1min 50secs, 19 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team , 20 Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin at 1min 52secs, Selected Others: 34 Daniel Martin (Irl) at 2mins 40secs, 112 Luke Rowe (Gbr) at 6mins 1sec.

Leading General Classification: 1 Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Team Sky at 80hrs 30mins 37secs, 2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb at 1min 51secs, 3 Chris Froome (Gbr) Team Sky at 2mins 24secs, 4 Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo at 3mins 22secs, 5 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 6mins 8secs, 6 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at 6mins 57secs, 7 Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team at 7mins 37secs, 8 Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates at 9mins 5secs, 9 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin at 12mins 37secs, 10 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team at 14mins 18secs, 11 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors at 16mins 32secs, 12 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team at 19mins 16secs, 13 Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at 22mins 13secs, 14 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team at 27mins 26secs, 15 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky at 27mins 52secs, 16 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team at 34mins 28secs, 17 Warren Barguil (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic at 37mins 6secs, 18 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 39mins 8secs, 19 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe at 39mins 18secs, 20 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team at 42mins 31secs, Selected Others: 29 Adam Yates (Gbr) at 1hr 17mins 5secs, 130 Luke Rowe (Gbr) at 3hrs 50mins 31secs.

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