Tour runner-up Thomas: To finish second behind a teammate makes it okay
2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas (Ineos) said he had “mixed emotions” about his second-place finish at the 2019 Tour. The 33-year-old Welshman was honest about his feelings after coming up short in defending his title, but he was also a gracious runner-up to race winner and Ineos teammate Egan Bernal.
“I am slightly disappointed not to have won a second Tour. It’s crazy, when two years ago I had my arm in a sling and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to race again,” he said.
“I would have loved to have won but the fact that Egan did makes it okay in the end.”
Thomas and Bernal enjoyed co-leadership status for most of the Tour, with Bernal generally deferring to defending champ Thomas as the top option. That changed when the 22-year-old Colombian soared into second overall on stage 18. Bernal then rode into yellow with an attack on the Col de l’Iseran on stage 19.
Thomas was in a chasing group when the stage was cut short due to weather and hazardous road conditions, with the gaps going over the climb registered as the day’s final results, and that was that—from there, it was all about protecting Bernal at Ineos. Thomas was left to settle for second without a chance to fight for yellow unless he wanted to attack his own teammate, which he did not do. The 2018 champ said he accepted the change in roles.
“I’ve ridden and been loyal for so many teammates before me,” he said. “It was 10 years of doing it when I got my own opportunity, but at the same time, when someone like Egan is in the team as well and he’s riding well, there’s no shame and no harm if I do my bit for him.”
Indeed, Thomas had no shortage of praise for the supremely talented youngster.
“He’s 22, who knows how many of these he is going to win. He was such a nice guy, and it was a pleasure to stand next to the podium with him,” Thomas said.
“Egan is the future and when I’m 45 and old and fat and sat in the pub watching him win a 10th Tour de France I can say I told him all I know.”
All that said, Thomas said that he will continue to aim for Grand Tour results of his own in the future. He had a difficult build-up to the event, and rode through a series of crashes during the Tour, leading him to call this year’s race a case of Murphy’s Law. All things considered, his overall runner-up performance was nothing to scoff at.
Thomas is now one of three Ineos riders with a Tour victory on his career palmares. Looking ahead, that could make things a bit more complicated for rider and team. Bernal’s star is ascending, and while four-time Tour champ Chris Froome may be recovering from injuries and a frustrating season, he will very likely continue to be a Grand Tour favorite next year.
That will make for a crowded leadership situation at the British WorldTour team, but Thomas said he still believes in his chances for future three-week success.
Asked after his runner-up result was secure if he thought he still had another Tour win in him, Thomas replied, “I think so,” and noted that doubters will only motivate him to push ahead.
“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.”