Geraint Thomas proved a popular winner of the Tour de France as he rode into Paris in the yellow jersey on Sunday.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at five things we learned from the 2018 Tour.
Team Sky’s leadership battle may just be starting
Team Sky spent the entire Tour insisting there was no leadership battle. They were all in for Froome, even if they were hedging their bets by allowing Thomas to race freely. But the torch was clearly passed after the Alps, when it was clear who was the man in form. There was never any sense of animosity between the two friends as Froome recognised he did not have the legs to challenge for a record-equalling fifth Tour title and instead got behind a man who had helped him deliver the four he already has. But the real problem may come next season. With Thomas due to sign a new contract to stay with Team Sky and Froome signed up until 2020, who do they send to the race next year? Will Froome get his shot at history? And if so, does the defending champion return to domestique duties? Or will Sky’s squad be a two-headed monster of the variety that can cause all the questions Sky were so keen to ignore here? “That’s a question for team management,” Froome said. “It’s not really a rider’s place to make those decisions.”
The next Giro-Tour double will have to wait
Nobody has won the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France back-to-back since Marco Pantani in 1998 when, to put it politely, cycling was in a very different place. Froome spied an opportunity to change that this year with an extra week’s rest between the two races as the Tour was pushed back a week to minimise the clash with the World Cup. But even the greatest stage racer of his generation found it a bridge too far as he lined up for his fourth consecutive Grand Tour. “I still believe it’s possible,” Froome said after confirming third place on the podium. “But it’s not going to be this year for sure.” Nor next year, it seems. The calendar afforded five-and-a-half weeks between the two races this year, but next it will only be three-and-a-half. Tom Dumoulin, whose achievement in finishing second in both races should not be overlooked, said: “Next year, whoever wants to go for the double challenge, it would be pretty impossible in my eyes.”
Dumoulin emerges as the best of the rest
Team Sky’s utter domination of the Tour continues as they claimed a sixth win in the last seven editions. The race ended with the likes of Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa having failed to put them under any serious pressure, while bad luck befell Richie Porte – as it always seems to – and Vincenzo Nibali. It was easy before the Tour to dismiss Dumoulin’s odds of challenging given he had ridden the Giro and not even planned to double up, while a route with just 31km of individual time trials did not allow the world champion against the clock to capitalise on his greatest strength. Yet the Dutchman navigated a path to the second step in Paris regardless and, at 27, must now be considered the most serious challenger to Sky’s dominance. “No-one expected me to do so well,” Dumoulin said, counting himself amongst that number. “We didn’t have an eye on the podium, we were just going for it. We have to look at doing better in the next few years.”
Peter Sagan’s bid to win the green jersey for a sixth consecutive year 12 months ago was ended by his controversial disqualification for the tangle which ended Mark Cavendish’s race. But the world champion was indomitable again this year, mathematically wrapping up the points classification with almost a week to spare – and finishing with a tally twice that of anyone else. A heavy crash on stage 17 put green in peril as he was in danger of either withdrawing or missing the time cut, but the Slovakian survived his “worst ever day on the bike” on stage 19 to be sure of victory in Paris. Finding someone, anyone, who can beat him to green looks a long way off.
Cavendish’s bid to catch Merckx in peril
It is now two years since Mark Cavendish won his 30th Tour de France stage. In 2017, he crashed out on stage four, but this time around he simply could not keep up before missing the time cut in La Rosiere. A younger generation, led by Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen bossed the sprints in the first week, while the best Cavendish could manage was an eighth place on stage seven. The 33-year-old has suffered two seasons wrecked by injury and illness, and looked ring-rusty on the roads. But before the Tour even started he admitted he was no longer the Cavendish of old, perhaps not ready to risk it all in the way he once did when the sprints get rougher. The Manxman needs four stage wins to match Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 in the Tour, a record that is looking further and further away.