Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas believes cycle racing will have a bright future in Britain after thousands of people lined the streets to watch the Tour de France arrive in London yesterday.

The British cyclist ensured Sky’s lead rider Chris Froome, who won the Tour last year, crossed the finish line in The Mall safely and retained fifth place in the general classification at the end of Stage Three.

The riders had started in Cambridge and passed through west Essex and East London on their way into the centre of the capital, with huge crowds lining the streets and waving them on.

Thomas said: “I didn’t ride the road race at the Olympic Games so didn’t ride in that sort of crowd, but that was unbelievable.

“It’s crazy. It’s reinforcing the legacy after the games and how enthusiastic people were and really getting into cycling. I’m just privileged to be at the age I am to really benefit from that.

“It doesn’t get much better than the Tour coming here. It’s great to see all the support and everyone getting behind it. It’s more and more in the mainstream media and on the TV, it’s growing all the time and there will be more and more racing here, bigger racing, so I think it’s got a great future.”

Team Sky general manager Sir Dave Brailsford arrived in London amid reports that he had ambitions to help a French rider win the Tour. A Frenchman has not won the race since Bernaud Hinault in 1985.

But Brailsford likened the situation to British tennis fans waiting 77 years to see a homegrown player win the Wimbledon men’s singles title – a wait ended by Andy Murray last year.

Speaking after the race outside the Team Sky coach on Horseguards Parade, Brailsford said: “France has the biggest cycling event every year and it would be great if a French guy won it.

“My focus is on doing everything I can to support Team Sky riders to be on the podium and support Chris in his race to win the Tour de France and keep on doing so, and try and create a team that people can really admire and really inspire people both in Britain and the rest of the world to keep on getting involved and keep on cycling.

“In Chris, we’ve got a fantastic lead rider and we see other young British riders developing as well. Look at Geraint, we’ve got Peter Kennaugh, and then the young Yates twins (Andy and Simon), so the future’s bright for British cycling.”

The Yates brothers are members of Orica–GreenEDGE, with Simon also riding the tour this year.