30 Jul 2007

Geraint Thomas was fatigued but delighted after becoming the first Welshman in 40 years to finish the gruelling 2,206-mile Tour de France.

Geraint Thomas

"It's been tough, I enjoyed the sprints but as soon as we hit the Alps it was a different kettle of fish," said Thomas, at 21 the youngest rider on the Tour.

"Everyone dreams of riding down the Champs-Elysee and finishing the Tour, I'm happy to get here but feeling it."

Thomas finished 140th, nearly four hours behind winner Alberto Contador.

He was 133rd on the final day's racing into the heart of Paris, 51 seconds behind stage winner Daniele Bennati.

Belgium's Wim Vansevenant was the only rider to finish behind Thomas, but getting to the end was the real achievement.

Many expected the Barloworld rider to gain some early experience then pull out when the Tour hit the punishing mountain stages, but Thomas said that was never in his thinking.

"I was always going to go as far as I could," said the Cardiff man, who is the youngest Briton to finish the Tour.

"I couldn't see the point in going home after a few days, it was always in my mind to try to finish and it's awesome to be at the end.

"I couldn't imagine what it would be like before, but I wanted to get stuck in and see what it was all about, I don't think you can imagine how hard, fast and chaotic it is out there until you actually do it.

"When we got to the mountains I was just trying to survive, taking it day by day.

"Now I want to go out, have a few beers and catch up with some friends, but I will definitely be resting for a few weeks. Going to bed is the main aim!"

Thomas said he did not want to focus on the drug problems that blighted the Tour, but he feels that something good may come from the scandals.

"It's obviously not been great, but times and attitudes are slowly changing," the 2004 World Junior Track Championships gold medallist told BBC Sport Wales.

"It's good for the future that people are getting caught now.

"It's annoying that experienced riders need to cheat because I'm a first-year pro and I've managed to get around.

"I hope people don't tarnish all Tour de France riders as drug takers."

Thomas’ British track colleague Bradley Wiggins – who was forced to pull out when his Cofidis colleague Moreni tested positive for testosterone – insisted this year’s Tour had "lost all credibility" due to the drugs scandal.

"No one has faith in who is wearing the yellow jersey," said Wiggins. "This year’s Tour is null and void as far as I am concerned.

"The real heroes of Le Tour is someone like Geraint Thomas, who has dragged himself over the mountains on just bread and water."

Thomas, who made his name on the track, has proved he has the stamina for the toughest road race of all.

"It’s a shame my effort has been overlooked by the drugs scandal," said Thomas. "But if it is for the Tour de France coming clean then it will not be in vain.

"The good thing about coming next to last is that no one even suspects you’re on drugs!

"My legs are in agony, every part of me is aching and I desperately want my bed, yet nothing in the world would tempt me to cheat.

"If I can’t win it clean on my own hard work and ability, I’d rather not win Le Tour at all.

"I haven’t worried myself with the drugs scandal because I’m more concerned with dragging my aching body through the entire tour. I can’t concern myself with anything else.

"The Tour de France has been tougher than I ever imagined and more. There was never any thought of me going home after the first week, what’s the point in that?

"The overall winner should be honoured as we’re not all drug cheats and if a guy has won Le Tour fair and square, you can’t deny him that prized yellow jersey."

(Taken from BBC Sport Wales & Wales on Sunday)