LISIEUX, France (AFP) – British cycling chief Dave Brailsford hailed the unselfishness of Welshman Geraint Thomas as Team Sky finally made history by scoring their first win on the Tour de France.
Norwegian ace Edvald Boasson Hagen claimed his and Sky’s maiden win in the race on Thursday after he outsprinted Australian Matt Goss and compatriot Thor Hushovd to win the race’s sixth and longest stage.
While Boasson Hagen finished the job, plaudits quickly went to lead-out man Thomas, who had the job of pacing him in hectic conditions towards the false-flat finish line.
“There is no better lead-out man in the world of cycling than Geraint Thomas. I don’t care what anybody says,” said Brailsford.
“He’s phenomenal, got the ability across the board. He’s a fantastic asset to this team — and he’s Welsh.”
Olympic team pursuit champion Thomas is a key part of a team bidding to support Bradley Wiggins’ bid for a podium place this year.
But after six days of racing that have seen him challenge the peloton’s big guns on all kinds of terrain, the Welshman has confirmed his status as Britain’s big Tour de France hope for the future.
Brailsford, who was in charge of the British track cycling team when it took seven of the 10 golds medals at the Beijing Olympics velodrome in 2008, knows that in stage racing terms, his team’s riders are comparative novices.
But this win has allowed them to relieve the pressure that built up following their mediocre debut campaign in 2010.
“We had a tough Tour last year and we wanted to get a stage win early on to take the pressure off Bradley,” Brailsford added.
“If anyone deserves to get our first win, it was Edvald. He’s done so much for this team and I’m very very happy for him.
“We’ll have a glass of champagne tonight and then focus on the rest of the race.”
Calling the team’s success “very significant,” Brailsford added: “We’re not even a year and a half old and we’ve won a stage in the Tour de France, so from our point of view I’m delighted.
“The team bus nearly turned over, we were jumping up and down and shouting so much.”
He added: “It’s perfect for Brad. It takes the pressure off the team and we can now focus on getting down to the mountains unscathed and plotting the GC campaign.”