This article originally appeared on Velo News
QUEBEC, Canada (VN) -- Geraint Thomas shared his condolences following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday. She was 96.
The Ineos Grenadiers star, who earned an OBE in 2019, spoke to VeloNews before the start of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec on Friday.
“It’s a super sad day,” Thomas told VeloNews. “It’s kind of strange because she’s always been there, wasn’t she? Everyone knew it was going to happen, but when it does happen, it’s still a bit of a shock. She led the country really well.”
In 2019, Thomas was appointed an officer of the Order of British Empire for his services to cycling, which included his yellow jersey at the 2018 Tour de France as well as Olympic gold medals in team pursuit in 2008 and 2012.
Thomas said the Queen did not personally award him his OBE in 2019 -- it was Prince William who gave Thomas the honor -- but he did meet her on two occasions at other official events.
“I didn’t meet her when I got my OBE, but I met her a couple of times in the palace for other things,” Thomas said. “That was always really special. The Queen was always clued in, always had something special to say about you or cycling, so she was very professional in that regard.
“I am sure she was not sat there watching the Tour de France or anything like that,” he added. “I feel privileged to have met her.”
The Ineos Grenadiers captain holds the unique distinction of being the only British-born Tour de France winner.
Bradley Wiggins, the first British winner, was born in Belgium, while four-time Tour winner Chris Froome, who holds a British passport, was born in Kenya.
“Everyone seemed to connect with her, which is kind of weird for the royal family,” Thomas said. “Some people are royalists and others aren’t, but I think she managed to bridge the line between that.”
Queen Elizabeth II rose to the British throne in 1952, which means every professional British rider from the era of Tom Simpson to Tom Pidcock and Lizzie Deignan raced during her reign.
Ineos Grenadiers’ riders wore a black armband in honor of the Queen’s death at Friday’s race.
The British team, now owned by the UK’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe, saw its decade-long rise coincide with the Olympic Games in London in 2012, the same year Wiggins won British’s first yellow jersey and with Thomas and Wiggins both winning gold medals during the Olympic Games.
Thomas is among a handful of Ineos riders and staffers who received OBE’s and other honors from the British royal family.
Thomas reflected on the Queen’s significance to the wider British society.
“People saw her as the elder statesman of the UK,” Thomas said. “It’s hard to describe, but I think most people were connected to her in some sort of way. She was always dignified and had great morals.
“When everything else seemed to be going to shit, she was always a constant. It’s a sad day.”
The Tour of Britain canceled its final three stages Thursday as part of the official British mourning process.
Meanwhile, the Vuelta a Espana held a minute’s silence ahead of Friday’s stage with the British and Commonwealth riders, and the whole of the Ineos Grenadiers squad, lined up at the front holding the UK flag.
Flags are at half-mast across Canada, which is part of the Commonwealth, and an official mourning period will also begin in Canada, which had Queen Elizabeth II as the official head of state.
Both the races in Canada -- the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal -- are going on as scheduled, officials confirmed.
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