Heroes of the 2018 Tour de France
John Degenkolb wins Stage 9 for Trek-Segafredo (Getty Images)

The 2018 Tour de France produced some incredible stories and emotional moments - as it always does. From an almost endless list of candidates, Velon nominates five heroes of this season's race. Vote for your personal TdF hero at the bottom of the article:

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo)

The German puncheur's phenomenal sprint victory on Stage 9 in Roubaix was one of the most memorable moments of the 2018 race. After fighting back from a serious training crash two years ago, Degenkolb felt some people were writing him off as a winner of top-level sprints.

Showing impressive patience in a three-man breakaway, Degenkolb waited for his moment inside the final kilometre, and had too much speed and power in an intense sprint against Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) and Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) after launching for the line with 200 metres to go. The pure emotion of such a significant victory was plain to see.

Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) looks weary after battling through Stage 19 (Getty Images)

Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe)

Cycling fans are used to seeing Sagan dominanting sprints - after all, he's won the last three World Championship road races, and sealed a record-equalling sixth Points Classification prize here with a typically attacking display.

However, Sagan would not have been standing on the podium in Paris in that green jersey had it not been for a seriously brave ride on Stage 19 between Lourdes and Laruns, a route that featured no fewer than six categorised climbs, including the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d'Aubisque. 

The Slovak had crashed heavily on Stage 17, and began to feel the worst effects two days later, dropping out of the peloton early, and battling his injuries throughout the stage. Sagan called it his toughest-ever day on the bike. It wasn't pretty - Sagan finished with the gruppetto a massive 38'23" behind stage winner Primož Roglič - but he got the job done.

Lawson Craddock after his heavy crash on Stage 1 (Getty Images)

Lawson Craddock

EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale's Texan rider would have gone under the radar under normal circumstances. But when he hit a water bottle in a feed zone after 100km on Stage 1, Craddock was sent flying off the road, sustaining a broken scapula (shoulder blade) and a badly-bruised eye.

Craddock battled through, making history by occupying last place in GC - the 'Lanterne Rouge' - from the end of Stage 1 all the way to Paris. Even more impressively, he found a way to channel the attention positively - setting up a fundraising page for his local Alkek Velodrome in Houston, Texas that was damaged by Hurricane Harvey last year. At the time of writing, the campaign has raised a massive $238,828.

Donate to the Alkek Velodrome here

Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates)

The UAE Team Emirates man is always looking for an opportunity to attack, and deservedly collected a victory on the Mur-de-Bretagne on Stage 6, holding off the eventual white jersey winner Pierre Latour (AG2R-La Mondiale) with a typically punchy attack.

Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) won Stage 6 (Getty Images)

Aside from that, the Irishman often sought to animate the race on the climbs, using his natural attacking style and bringing an unstructured approach based on instinct.

As a result, the 31-year-old Martin was recognised by race organisers with the overall combativity award, which he gratefully claimed on the podium in Paris on Sunday.

Geraint Thomas on the top step of the podium in Paris (Getty Images)

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)

There's no way we could leave out the universally popular winner of the 2018 Tour de France, Geraint Thomas of Team Sky. The Welshman had previously endured some misfortune at stage races, crashing heavily in last year's Giro d'Italia while leading the team and suffering crashes and misfortune in previous Tours and week-long stage races too.

But everything fell into place for Thomas this year - he went through the entire three weeks without a puncture, and became the clear leader of the team with Chris Froome not quite at his best after winning the Giro d'Italia in May (and the Vuelta a Espana and the Tour de France before that ...)

Thomas won two mountain stages and stayed cool under pressure when Team Sky's GC rivals attacked - most impressively on that attritional Stage 19 when he was briefly isolated in the group of favourites. It was a richly deserved and hugely popular win.

Don't miss: