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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

UAE team's Kristoff wins final Tour de France stage as Thomas clinches race

Thomas of Team Sky finishes race in Paris with near two-minute lead on Sunweb's Dumoulin to secure first yellow jersey

Even as Geraint Thomas sealed his first Tour de France victory, there was joy for the UAE Team Emirates as Alexander Kristoff won the 21st and final stage of the cycling race on Sunday.

European champion Kristoff edged out Trek-Segafredo's John Degenkolb, with Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ third.

The sprint finish had been set up in the final lap of eight circuits around the Champs-Elysees, after late solo breaker Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) was caught just 200 metres from the finish line.

Degenkolb was the first of the sprinters to go after a fine lead-out by his Trek teammates, but he faced a battle with Demare accelerating next to him on the right hand side and Kristoff jumping off his wheel and passing him on the left.

In the end it was the Norwegian that was able to hold his power to the line to take a famous victory after struggling to beat the other sprinters during this Tour.

“It’s a dream come true,” Kristoff said. “I have dreamed about this for many years. I was close a couple of times before but I didn’t manage to beat the faster guys.

“I am super happy to win on the Champs-Elysees. It has been a dream ever since I was a young sprinter and it is a special feeling for sure."

He finished second in the final points classification, while his UAE teammate Daniel Martin ended up eighth in the general classification. Martin also won the Super Combativity prize.

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Read more:

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Arnaud Demare fires back at critics to win Stage 18 at Tour de France

Dan Martin misses out on Tour de France Stage 17 win to 'better guy on the day'

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But the day belonged to Thomas, of Team Sky, who finished the race in Paris with a near two-minute lead on Dutch rival Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) to secure his first yellow jersey.

The 32-year-old Welshman, the third Briton to win the race after Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, secured Team Sky's sixth victory in the race from the past seven editions.

Thomas, who won back-to-back stages in the Alps before sealing victory with a third-place finish in the penultimate stage time trial on Saturday, took a 1min 51sec lead over Dumoulin into the 21st stage from Houilles to the French capital.

The final stage is usually a festive affair, and Thomas was seen celebrating with fellow Sky teammates early in the stage as he soaked up becoming the first Welsh yellow jersey winner.

It took several laps of the inner-city circuit around the Champs-Elysees for the race to kick into action.

And after a six-man breakaway was reeled in late on, the sprinters' teams in the peloton upped the pace to chase down a last-ditch attempt by Belgian champion Yves Lampaert, of Quick Step.

Lampaert was caught with only 220 metres remaining, and from there Kristoff came off the wheel in front of him to surge to the line and hold off Germany's Degenkolb and Frenchman Demare.

Thomas rolled over the line seconds later, smiling and joking with four-time and defending champion Chris Froome.

"It's unbelievable," Thomas told Eurosport. "I think it's going to take a while to sink in. Normally that stage is really hard but today I just seemed to float around. There was goosebumps going around there.

"The support, the Welsh and the British flags it's unreal, it's the Tour de France. To be riding around wearing this [the yellow jersey], it's the stuff of dreams."

On his Team Sky team-mates, Thomas added: "We stuck together through some tough times and really stayed strong. I owe them a lot."