Geraint Thomas has "defied the odds" by finishing runner-up in the Tour de France, according to Team Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford.
Thomas was hoping to defend the title he won last year but the 33-year-old Welshman has had to settle for second place behind Colombian team-mate Egan Bernal.
"He's had a fantastic tour," Brailsford said. "The first time someone wins the Tour de France they hardly ever come back and perform well the year afterwards.
"Geraint's defied all the odds there and could have won the race.
"He's fair, he's balanced, he wanted to win, but then as soon as the opportunity came for the team to win he was 100 per cent behind it and he's just a pleasure to work with. He's a class act.
"We've been very fortunate in the last couple of seasons to be in this position but every time is different and this race was the most exciting, open, topsy-turvy kind of race that we've ever been involved in.
"So to come away with first and second on the podium has been tremendously rewarding and of course with a guy so young in Egan it has added an extra bit of enjoyment and a different element because all our previous wins have been with British riders."
Bernal is the first Colombian to taste victory in the Tour and, at 22, is the youngest winner in the post-war era.
"He was 19 when we first spoke to him but he was so mature for his age," Brailsford added. "He's such a well-balanced, super generous, kind, very giving individual, very concerned about everyone else, and yet he's got this incredible winning streak inside him which has made him the champion that he already is."
"He is a lovely young man and he doesn't hesitate at all if he sees something in the team that he doesn't feel happy about. He's pretty quick to come knock on my door and say I'm a little concerned with rider X, he seems a bit upset with something, I think you should sort it out."
Brailsford revealed that four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is making good progress with his recovery from the horrific crash during a practice ride before stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine which left him in intensive care.
"He's ahead of schedule," Brailsford said. "He's been riding his static bike with one leg, he's managed to turn a pedal with his other leg so he's ahead of where he was hoping to be. Hopefully we'll see him back at the Tour de France next year."