ESPELETTE (France) • Team Sky's Geraint Thomas was at a total loss for words after knowing that he will be crowned the Tour de France winner in Paris today, following a dominant performance in yesterday's penultimate stage.
The 32-year-old Welshman, who will become only the third Briton to win cycling's most prestigious race, sealed the yellow jersey with a brilliant ride in the 31km individual time trial from Saint-Pee-Sur-Nivelle to Espelette.
He finished third in the 20th stage yesterday, 14 seconds behind Sunweb's Tom Dumoulin (40:52) and 13sec slower than team-mate Chris Froome.
Overall, Thomas leads Dumoulin by 1:51 and Froome by 2:24.
"I'm really trying not to cry, it's unbelievable. I tried not to think about it, just take it day by day," he told ITV4.
"I can't believe it... welling up, man. I don't know what to say. It's just overwhelming. I've won the Tour de France man, I don't know what to say.
"I felt really good today, but I was maybe pushing a bit hard on the corners. I was told on the radio to relax and take it easy and just make sure I won the Tour.
"I can finally let the emotion come. The last time I cried was at my wedding, I don't know what happened then, at least I know what's happening now.
"It's insane man - Tour de France! Can't believe it."
With tradition dictating that the yellow jersey is not attacked during the final stage into Paris, he will join Bradley Wiggins - who won the race in 2012 - and Froome, who triumphed in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, in the list of British winners.
Thomas was the last rider off the ramp in Saint-Pee-Sur-Nivelle, the challenge of a punchy course with rolling roads and sharp climbs softened by knowing he began with a 2min 05sec lead over Dumoulin.
The Dutchman is the reigning world champion. But the prospect of Dumoulin being able to take vastly more time out of Thomas always looked highly unlikely, especially as he was on tired legs having ridden three weeks on the Tour as well as the Giro d'Italia in May.
Thomas' task was simple: ride strongly and not crash on roads left slippery by afternoon showers.
There was one wobble after 12km - where the Welshman nearly stacked the bike - but he passed the first checkpoint at 13km 14 seconds clear of his nearest rival Froome and, after that, he never looked back.
He powered down the final climb and into Espelette, passing red, green and white bunting - not just the colours of the Basque country but the Welsh flag - as well as thousands of cheering supporters as he crossed the line.
Such positivity has not always been the case on this Tour, with Thomas regularly booed on the podium by a French public sceptical of Team Sky's achievements.
On Friday, a Team Sky car was pelted with eggs by fans. The French paper Le Monde wrote yesterday that while it believed Thomas was clean, the fans they spoke to had greater scepticism.
"A Welsh track specialist who, at the age of 32, wins the Tour de France, is it a miracle? For the latter case, we would tend to answer no," the paper wrote.
"And yet, nobody believes it. Among the French, we must create folders and sub-folders. Those who watch the Tour; those who watch the race; those who believe in the regularity of the race they watch. In this last file, there is no one left."
Some doubters have also pointed out that Thomas has never finished higher than 15th in a grand tour.
That, however, must be placed into context, given the Welshman has usually ridden in support of other riders rather than as general classification contender.
In the past, Thomas' progress has also been interrupted with an unfortunate history of having bad days and crashes.
Not this time, though. He has ridden with maturity and class throughout this Tour - and he emerges as a worthy winner.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS