By Agence France-Presse
Geraint Thomas has “defied the odds” by occupying second place in the Tour de France behind Colombia teammate Egan Bernal, said Team Ineos boss Dave Brailsford.
Bernal, 22, will clinch victory on Sunday as long as he avoids any late disaster on the twilight parade into Paris to become the youngest winner in more than a century.
Thomas was hoping to defend the title he won last year but the 33-year-old Welshman has had to settle for second place.
“He’s had a fantastic tour,” Brailsford told BBC Radio on Sunday. “The first time someone wins the Tour de France they hardly ever come back and perform well the year afterwards.
“Geraint’s defied all the odds there and could have won the race. He’s fair, he’s balanced, he wanted to win, but then as soon as the opportunity came for the team to win he was 100 percent behind it and he’s just a pleasure to work with. He’s a class act.”
Brailsford said the 2019 Tour had been the “most exciting, open, topsy-turvy kind of race that we’ve ever been involved in”.
“So to come away with first and second on the podium has been tremendously rewarding,” Brailsford said. “Of course with a guy so young in Egan it has added an extra bit of enjoyment and a different element because all our previous wins have been with British riders.”
Bernal will be the first Colombian winner of cycling’s greatest prize.
“He was 19 when we first spoke to him but he was so mature for his age,” Brailsford said.
“He’s such a well-balanced, super-generous, kind, very giving individual, very concerned about everyone else, and yet he’s got this incredible winning streak inside him which has made him the champion that he already is.”
Brailsford said four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome was making good progress with his recovery from a horrific crash during a practice ride before stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine, which left him in intensive care.
“He’s ahead of schedule,” Brailsford said. “He’s been riding his static bike with one leg, he’s managed to turn a pedal with his other leg so he’s well ahead of where he was hoping to be and he’s putting everything into his recovery so hopefully we’ll see him back at the Tour de France next year.”