Geraint Thomas admitted the magnitude of winning the 2018 Criterium du Dauphine took a while to sink in, but the Team Sky man was determined to enjoy his success before contemplating what lies ahead with the Tour de France.
Thomas sealed overall victory in the prestigious race for the first time – becoming the fifth British winner in its history – after successfully defending his overall lead as second-placed compatriot Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) won the final stage on St Gervais Mont Blanc.
Two ill-timed punctures meant the final stage was far from straightforward for the Team Sky man, but he was quick to hail the work of his team-mates in securing the second WorldTour stage race win of his career after Paris-Nice 2016.
“It’s incredible, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Thomas said of the victory. “It’s an amazing feeling to win and I think it will really start to sink in tonight. It’s a massive race and it’s an incredible feeling.
“I was counting down the kilometres on the last climb and knew I had about 1’20” to lose to Adam Yates so, as each kilometre went by, I was more confident and happy. When they started sprinting with 300m to go I was like ‘it’s done – finally’.
“I’m just going to enjoy this win now, rest up and recover and look forward to July.”
He added: “The guys were just incredible, They rode really well for me.”
Thomas finished fifth on the final day in the end, having moved into the yellow jersey and clear of his rivals thanks to second place finishes at Valmorel and La Rosiere on stages five and six.
He follows fellow former British winners Brian Robinson, Robert Millar, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in to the history books.
And Yates’ second place ensured the first ever British one-two in the race, with his second win on the WorldTour in 2018 confirming both he and the Welshman will head to the Tour de France in top form.
Yates said: “The Tour de France has been my main goal for the whole season. We’re getting closer and closer so I’m happy to get confidence from this race. I look forward to the Tour now.”
He said it was learning from the previous days that helped him take victory on St Gervais Mont Blanc, delaying his attack to claim the stage win.
“It’s been two back-to-back hard stages,” he added. “The past four days, I’ve always been the one to initiate the attacks. So today I decided to wait. I just made that final move towards the end.
“I could take the stage win on the last corner. Romain Bardet was trying to overtake me in the GC but every time I responded.”
Yates’ victory was his second on the WorldTour this season, after also winning a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico, as he powered clear of Thomas and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) in the final 200m.
Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) had looked set for a solo victory, as the last remaining escapee from the day’s break – spending 105km of the 136km stage at the front of the race – but Yates swept past him to grab the seventh pro win of his career.
Bardet had started the day in third overall, and repeatedly attacked the British duo in a bid to upgrade his podium finish, but – even after Thomas twice had to chase back following ill-timed punctures – he could not shed his GC rivals.
A late flurry saw him claim third on the day, nine seconds behind Yates, and third overall but Thomas crossed the line ten seconds later to earn the second UCI WorldTour stage race win of his career after Paris-Nice 2016.
Having been the last man standing in support of Thomas, meanwhile, Tao Geoghegan Hart climbed to 13th overall to follow his fifth place in support of Egan Arley Bernal’s Amgen Tour of California win last month.
Criterium du Dauphine 2018: stage seven – result
1) Adam Yates (GBR) – Mitchelton-Scott – 3.51.34hrs
2) Daniel Navarro (ESP) – Cofidis +4”
3) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +9”
4) Emanuel Buchmann (GER) – Bora-hansgrohe +14”
5) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +19”
6) Daniel Martin (IRL) – UAE Team Emirates +24”
7) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – BMC Racing – ST
8) Guillaume Martin (FRA) – Wanty Groupe Gobert +28”
9) Pierre Latour (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +35”
10) Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Team EF-Drapac +41”
1) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – 24.43.12hrs
2) Adam Yates (GBR) – Mitchelton-Scott +1.00
3) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +1.47
4) Daniel Martin (IRL) – UAE Team Emirates +2.35
5) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – BMC Racing +2.44
6) Emanuel Buchmann (GER) – Bora-hansgrohe +3.05
7) Pierre Latour (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +4.05
8) Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Team EF-Drapac +4.22
9) Daniel Navarro (ESP) – Cofidis, Solutions Credit +4.31
10) Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) – Katusha-Alpecin +4.45
13) Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR) – Team Sky +7.05