Tour de France hero Thomas was almost speechless after the nation picked him ahead of five-time Formula One king Hamilton and England skipper Harry Kane, who won the Golden Boot on the way to the World Cup semi-finals.
Welshman Thomas, 32, said: "I really should have thought about what I was going to say., It's insane.
But heavyweight hero Tyson Fury missed out on the shortlist – as it emerged the six names were compiled BEFORE his stunning world title draw against Deontay Wilder.
And shocked winner Thomas revealed Fury's comeback had inspired him.
He said: "I am lucky to have come into cycling at the time I did.
"I used to go to the leisure centre for a swim and then I started riding my bike.
"This is for my wife as much as for me. I am really lucky to have her. My family is a massive inspiration to me.
"I always just focused on myself as a bike rider.
But hearing stories like Tyson and Billy you realise that we do inspire people.
"And we take just as much pride in hearing that people are inspired, getting on their bikes, doing sport.
"I take great pride in representing Britain and Wales. It has been an amazing year for British sport and long may it continue."
The other three nominees were record Test-wicket taker James Anderson plus sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, who lifted three golds at the European Championships, and Lizzy Yarnold, Britain's most successful Winter Olympian who retired after winning the skeleton this year.
The panel of sporting celebrities and media figures who settled on the list met three weeks ago – before Fury was knocked down twice by Wilder but still got up for what most people thought was a victory, only for the judges to rule it a draw.
The group did meet again to discuss replacing one of the six contenders with Fury but eventually decided he had not done enough.
In another surprising move, the BBC decided they would not make public the polling numbers for any of the awards.
In past years full details have been disclosed to provide an accurate guide to how the vote went.
But this time they decided not to publish the numbers, saying it brings SPOTY in line with other public voting shows such as Strictly Come Dancing.
Fury told SPOTY presenter Gary Lineker that if he can battle back from mental illness – as he did – then "anyone can".
The 30-year-old said of his display against Wilder: "It was a special moment in my life and career.
"Everyone knows what I've been through in 2017 and 2018, they were terrible years.
"This year I decided I wanted to get back to the top of heavyweight boxing and I dedicated my life to the sport.
"I should be WBC heavyweight champion of the world and everyone knows it!"
Award frontrunner Kane's calmness under pressure had wowed sports fans across the country, who loved the freshness and passion of boss Gareth Southgate's new-look, younger Lions.
And Southgate himself was "incredibly proud" to be named sports coach of the year – and insisted he will into rest until he has turned the continuing "pain" of defeat against Croatia in Russia into the joy of winning a major tournament.
Teen race ace Billy Monger, who lost both his legs in a Formula 4 crash at Donington Park, held the audience rapt after winning the Helen Rollason Award – although he was cut off when he thanked his parents, forcing the BBC to invite him back near the end of the evening to finish off the tribute
And he paid tribute to the family of Bradley Lowery, the six-year-old Sunderland fan who died of a rare cancer last year.
He said: "First of all I've got to say a massive thank you for this award.
"I came here last year and had the privilege of seeing Bradley Lowery's parents collect this award and it was such an emotional and special moment of the night.
"A massive thank you to my doctors, surgeons and everyone at QMC, quite simply, without these guys, I may not be here today.
"It's a real honour to be able to share the stage with them because the work they did for me, well…they saved my life."
England's netball heroes landed both the team of the year and best sporting moment of 2018 for their staggering triumph over strong favourites and hosts Australia in the Commonwealth Games gold decider.
Dazed captain Ama Agbeze said: "As you can tell we're a bit shocked, surprised and happy!"
Who won what
Team of the Year
Coach of the Year
World Sport Star
Meanwhile, lifetime achievement winner Bille Jean King, the American tennis legend, revealed the moment she knew had to fight for more equality in her sport.
She said: "At 12 I had an epiphany. We wore white shoes and clothes, played with white tennis balls and everyone who played was white.
"From that moment on, I committed to fighting for equality and inclusion."
Meanwhile, seamer supreme Anderson, 36, said: "When you get to thirty people start saying 'you need to think about retiring' but for me, I just absolutely love it and keep going as long as I can."
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