Geraint Thomas has been hailed a national inspiration after winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, beating Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton into second place, with England football captain Harry Kane third.
It crowns an incredible year for the 32-year-old who becomes the fifth cyclist to win the award – the fourth in the last decade – and the fifth athlete from Wales.
The Tour de France champion started the day as a winner, too, when he was given a replacement Tour trophy on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch – the original was stolen three months ago.
As a two-time Olympic champion on the track, Thomas consolidated his impressive accomplishments in July this year by becoming the first Welshman to win the Tour de France.
Anne Adams King, chief executive of Welsh Cycling, said: “Geraint has been truly inspirational, starting at a grass roots level at local Cardiff club Maindy Flyers at the age of 10 and progressing through a Welsh Cycling pathway programme into British Cycling, he has never forgotten his roots and has always looked to inspire a younger generation alongside his own career.
“We are so pleased for Geraint – an excellent achievement we are very proud of.”
Darren Tudor, head coach at Welsh Cycling, said: “Geraint was part of the Welsh junior programme for three years before transferring to the British Cycling Academy. He was easy to work with and offered everything a coach wants from an athlete.
“When we work with juniors, we’re always aspiring for them to move onto the next level in their career and we’re constantly looking to give them the right skills and education. Geraint’s discipline and work ethic was completely in tune with what we needed him to achieve as a junior”.
“It was evident to me as his coach at the time that even in those early stages, his demeanour was very much like others who have become world class athletes and already had an edge to his performance and goals.
“He had a really supportive background, both his parents were an absolute pleasure to work with and really just wanted G to do the best he could without being demanding”.
“On behalf of everyone at Welsh Cycling, congratulations Geraint on such a cracking year.”
Thomas is the first Welshman to win Sports Personality since Ryan Giggs in 2009.
The Team Sky rider made history in summer when he took home his first yellow jersey, ahead of Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and team-mate Chris Froome.
An emotional Thomas said: “I feel really lucky to have come into cycling when I did.
“I was just going down the leisure centre for a swim and ended up riding my bike. It’s insane, now I’m stood here.
“I’ve always thought I’m just focused on myself and people want me to win, but you realise that what we do does inspire people back home.
“To see people of all abilities and ages riding their bikes and living a healthy lifestyle, you can take as much pride in that as winning something like this.
“I take great pride in representing Britain and Wales when I’m racing abroad. It’s been an amazing year for British sport and long may it continue.”
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