After 3540km, passing through four countries and 635 cities, Chris Froome crossed the line in Paris as the greatest British cyclist in history. He sipped champagne with a beaming smile as he rode through the Champs-Elyseés, which was well deserved after the hardest win so far in his cycling career.
This was the year that Froome’s dominance was supposed to end. The 104th edition of the Tour de France was specifically designed to stop one single rider dominating the race, and had less time trials, where Froome flourishes. You could even say it was the hardest Tour yet, but he still beat the second placed rider, Rigoberto Uran, by 54 seconds and had a 2m 20s advantage over Romain Bardet in third place.
Since winning last year’s Tour, Froome has competed in the Olympics, the Vuelta a Espana and the Dauphines, a schedule that many riders would struggle to deal with. And going into the race, he hadn’t had the best of years. Every time that Froome has won the Tour, he has won the Dauphines but this year he finished fourth, but as the year has gone on, Froome has found his mettle to win his fourth tour and position himself amongst the greatest riders in its 100+ year history.
As he extended his lead on Stage 20, riding into the Stade Velodrome in Marseilles, he was greeted to a chorus of boos from the French locals who haven’t had a home winner since the 1980’s. He doesn’t attract superstar status because he is a calm, quiet and reserved individual but it takes more than that to win the hardest race in sport. Sir Dave Brailsford, the general manager of Team Sky, in an interview with ITV, gave an insight into Chris Froome’s personality:
He’s a very polite guy… and then something will happen down the line and all of a sudden you will see this steel that’s behind him. He’s a never say die guy
After his win, Chris Froome spoke to ITV: “I’m speechless, it’s just an amazing feeling,
There’s something magical about it, it’s been such a battle to get here and it’s just so rewarding every time.
With Froome winning his 4th tour, it is easy to discount how hard this race is. To ride at your best for several hours every single day, to not crash, to carry on going when you hit the pain barrier requires extreme mental strength and Froome has it in abundance. Richie Porte, Marcel Kittel, Geraint Thomas and Alejandro Valverde who are all esteemed riders in their own right, had to abandon the race after crashing. Froome is the 4th longest yellow jersey holder in the history of the race. To achieve that amidst the dangerous descents and the monstrous mountains is something almost superhuman.
It was the stage on the way to Le Puy-en-Velay where he suffered his biggest scare, and for the first time he panicked, uncharacteristically. Whilst the main general classification riders were in full flow and attacking, Froome suffered a mechanical and faced a mammoth task to get back into the GC group. But somehow, he clawed it back, it would had been beyond the powers of every other rider, but not the indestructible Froome. He just would not give up. From that moment, you realised that nothing would stop Froome from claiming his fourth Tour win.
Team Sky, Chris Froome’s team, had a target of keeping hold of the yellow jersey for every stage of the race, something which hasn’t happened since the 1970’s. They didn’t quite manage it, missing out by just two stages after Fabio Aru was the momentary leader. Throughout every stage, Team Sky were tactically assured, the organisation of Sky was a joy to watch and were duly the best team overall. Apart from AG2R La Modiale, Team Sky had over an hour’s advantage over the team in third place. They made everybody else look like amateurs. But they have done so in controversial circumstances after the dispute over Bradley Wiggins’ mysterious package and their skin suits which attracted attention from rival teams.
Chris Froome, at the age of 32, is just one more win from joining the list of the best riders in the history of the Tour de France such as Eddie Merckx and Miguel Idurain. Froome may be 32 but he looks fitter than ever.
It is a rich time for British cyclists in Le Tour after Bury’s own Simon Yates won the white jersey after being the best young rider, his twin brother, Adam, also won the white jersey in 2016. Simon finished 7th overall and just six minutes behind Froome. Chris Froome shows no sign of stopping just yet but the future is certainly more than bright for British Cycling in the Tour de France.