Geraint Thomas has his eye on further Grand Tour glory after sealing victory in the Tour de France.
Thomas crossed the line in Paris on Sunday night to seal victory by one minute and 51 seconds from Team Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin, with his Sky team-mate Chris Froome third.
Thomas became the third Briton to win the Tour following Sir Bradley Wiggins and Froome, with the trio having won six of the last seven editions between them, all in Sky colours.
“I’ve certainly got the taste for it,” he said. “This year I’ve really enjoyed racing for stages and being aggressive. Racing on instinct almost.”
Where his next race might come remains to be seen. Thomas was originally pencilled in to ride La Vuelta in September, but that seems less likely following events here.
Any decisions about next season – when Sky may find themselves picking between Froome’s ambitions for a record-equalling fifth Tour crown and Thomas’ status as defending champion – are for the future.
“I haven’t thought about that yet,” Thomas said. “At the moment I just want to enjoy this.”
Standing on the podium in Paris, Thomas was quick to thank Froome, who rode in support of the Welshman once he realised his own ambitions of a record-equalling fifth Tour title were beyond him.
Tales of acrimonious leadership battles in cycling are legion – not least involving Wiggins and Froome – but Thomas never seemed to have an issue with the four-time Tour winner.
“Big respect to Froomey,” he said in his victory speech on the Champs-Elysees. “It could have got awkward, there could have been tensions, but mate you were a great champion.”
The pair had crossed the line arm-in-arm at the end of the 116km final stage from Houilles, during which Thomas enjoyed all the traditions of the last day of the Tour, clinking champagne glasses with team-mates and posing for pictures.
The 32-year-old is a two-time Olympic champion on the track, but as he stood on the podium on the Champs-Elysees he recalled memories of watching the Tour as a youngster.
“I got into cycling because of this race,” he said. “I remember running home from school to be a part of it, and now I am here stood in the yellow jersey. It’s insane.”
At the end of a disjointed speech, during which the overwhelmed Thomas struggled to remember the names of his team-mates and almost forgot to thank his wife, Thomas finished with a mic drop.
“Kids, you will have knocks and downs but believe anything is possible,” he said. “With hard work it can can come off. Thank you very much and vive le Tour.”
Thomas has worn the yellow jersey since victory in La Rosiere on stage 11 and effectively wrapped up the win on Saturday’s time trial, but was still trying to take it all in.
“Maybe when I’m like 70 sat in a corner of a pub telling some 18-year-old what I used to be it will sink in,” he said. “It’s incredible, the stuff of dreams.”
Though he had led Froome by more than a minute and a half after his victory on stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez, Thomas revealed he was only fully handed the leadership of the team after the four-time winner faltered on stage 17 to fall even further back just days before Paris.
“The real defining moment was when he had his bad day (on stage 17), but at the same time I was always allowed my own freedom,” he said.
“It wasn’t like I had to work for him as a domestique. Obviously the guys were riding for Froomey and I just stayed with them. I was the back-up leader and if I was good, I was good and I would stay in front.”
In a race that saw several contenders lose time to mishaps, Thomas stayed out of trouble and was able to stamp his authority on the race more and more as it went on, while Froome had been put on the back foot from the opening stage when a late excursion into a field cost him 51 seconds.
Those 51 seconds were useful, but Thomas found other ways to pick up time on Froome and everybody else throughout the race. In total he picked up 33 bonus seconds, 20 of them from his two stage wins, with the rest coming through bonus sprints or lower placings.
“The two and the one (bonus seconds) in the first week were there, so why not take them?” he said. “When it came to the last mountain-top finish in the Pyrenees, when Froomey was dropped, it was just about stamping my authority on it.
“I just kept picking them up when I could, and just racing.”
Thomas got to savour the rewards on Sunday – and he has plans for plenty more of the same.
“I’m going to have a big party for a couple of weeks,” he said. “Maybe even a month.”
Thomas rode like a man who knew this was his best chance, perhaps his only chance, to win the Tour, and one he was not going to let get away.
He once said he never wanted to end up sitting in a Cardiff pub wondering what might have been, and now never will.
“It would be nice (to win more Grand Tours),” he said. “But if I do nothing now for the rest of my career I can be happy.”