Chris Froome dug deep into his physical and mental reserves to claim his second Tour de France title yesterday after three punishing weeks on, and possibly even more so, off the bike.
The 30-year-old Briton, who resisted Nairo Quintana’s late charge in the Alps to repeat his 2013 triumph, endured a torrid race during which he was jeered, spat at and had urine thrown at him due to ongoing suspicions of doping.
Froome is not the first yellow jersey holder to be roughed up by the crowd—Belgian great Eddy Merckx and French champion Jacques Anquetil were in their time—but he faced a high level of scrutiny in a sport still reeling from the Lance Armstrong drugs scandal.
“Chris has shown his real mettle, the way he puts up with the abuse is unbelievable,” Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford said.
“It’s unreal, we’ve been up against everything in this year’s Tour,” said Froome, the first Briton to win the Tour twice.
A polite, softly-spoken character, Froome showed on the bike he could dig deep as he hung on for dear life during the penultimate stage to the iconic Alpe d’Huez in which Quintana sliced more than half of deficit on Saturday.
It was not enough to derail Froome as the Briton, giving Sky their third Tour title in four years, won the race by one minute 12 seconds, with Quintana’s Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde a distant third, 5:25 off the pace.
Froome, who also secured the polka dot jersey for the mountain classification, was already in prime position after the opening block of racing in which he was expected to struggle.
He was on the right side of a bunch split in the high winds of the Netherlands and briefly attacked on the cobblestones of northern France.
He stayed safe until the first mountain stage, which he won thanks to a jaw-dropping attack on the ascent to La Pierre St Martin.
“There was only one stage where I really made my mark and that was La Pierre St Martin and the rest of the stages were about being as consistent as possible and trying to just chip away,” Froome said.
The performance sparked doping suspicions and urine was thrown at Froome, who was also spat at by spectators.
Organisers blamed the incident on the media, urging them to be more responsible while Team Sky published Froome’s power data on the climb in order to put the doping suspicions to bed.
Froome, however, soldiered on.
With defending champion Vincenzo Nibali having dropped out of contention before finishing a decent fourth, and Alberto Contador, fifth in Paris, looking far below his best after a tough Giro d’Italia, Froome only had Quintana to control as American Tejay van Garderen abandoned on the first Alpine stage.
But Quintana, who had lost a big chunk of time in the first week, left it too late, only taking his chances in the last two mountain stages.
Froome said he felt relieved on Saturday, possibly because he will not have to put up with the abuse and suspicions until the next Tour de France, which he will surely start as favourite as he does not show give any signs of weakening.
“I love the sacrifices, the hard work. That’s what gets me out of bed,” he said.
“I love pushing my body to the limit,” added the lanky Briton, who has been suffering from a cold since the second rest day.
His team-mate and lieutenant Richie Porte paid tribute to Froome’s courage.
“Obviously the last three weeks have really taken a toll on him and truth be known I don’t think he’s been that healthy either,” Porte said.
“It’s a testament to how hard he is mentally.”
German Andre Greipel took the 21st stage yesterday, his fourth win on this year’s Tour.
Five stages where Froome won the Tour de France
Stage 2 - Utrecht-Zeeland, 166km
This was a pan-flat stage that on paper looked likely to end in a bunch sprint but, with unpredictable weather and the possibility of crosswinds, danger was lurking everywhere. It rained throughout the stage and sure enough, things happened. The pace was upped at the front of the peloton as crosswinds and rain made the favourites jittery. Crashes started to happen and both reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana got caught out. A split happened in the peloton with Froome among those on the right side of it. By the end, Nibali and Quintana
had lost a minute-and-a-half to Froome and Alberto Contador. It would prove decisive.
Stage 4 - Seraing-Cambrai, 223.5km
Froome had already gained time on his rivals on the previous two days in the crosswinds to Zeeland and the steep finish on the Mur de Huy. But it was this cobbled stage that was perhaps more demoralising for his rivals as it suggested the Sky leader had no weaknesses. Froome had not even ridden the cobbles in 2014 as he’d already crashed out of the
race, and there was a big question mark over how comfortable he would be. But when he exited the final sector in the wheel of team-mate Geraint Thomas leading the race, his rivals must have wondered where they could possibly gain time on him.
Stage 10 - Tarbes-La Pierre-Saint Martin, 167km
This was the stage more than any other that decided the 2015 Tour. It was the first mountain stage of the race and the first chance for the favourites to really test each other. As it happened, Nibali cracked spectacularly, Contador suffered badly, Quintana couldn’t quite keep up and Froome, attacking with an extraordinary pedal rate, stormed to victory, delivering a crushing blow to all his rivals.
Stage 14 - Rodez-Mende, 178.5km
For the first time in the race, it appeared as if Froome was in trouble. First Quintana and then Nibali attacked on the final 3km, 10.1 percent gradient climb. But Froome showed great maturity in keeping cool, keeping his rhythm going and soon there was only Quintana left ahead and everyone else losing ground behind. By the finish line, Froome had even snatched another second from Quintana and with only the Alps left, the rest were running out of chances to turn things around.
Stage 20 - Modane-Alpe d’Huez, 110.5km
Froome was suffering from a cough and Quintana had snatched back 30sec from the Briton on the previous day’s Alpine summit finish. The Colombian had vowed to attack from further out this time and sure enough his first dig came 60km from the finish on the monstrous Col de la Croix de Fer. Froome managed to respond but when Quintana went again on Alpe d’Huez, the Sky leader was reduced to following the wheels of team-mates Richie Porte and Wouter Poels. Quintana’s lead was inching forward but Froome battled all the way up the iconic climb and by the end, he may have finished 1min 20sec behind Quintana but he still had a 1min 12sec lead over the Colombian and the Tour was his!
Full name: Christopher Froome
Date of birth: May 20, 1985
Place of birth: Nairobi, Kenya
Height: 1m 86cm (6ft 1in)
Weight: 67kg (10st 7lb)
Nickname: Froomey, Froome-dog
Teams: Konica Minolta (2007), Barloworld (2008-09), Team Sky (2010-present)
Grand Tours: Tour de France (2013 and 2015, 2nd in 2012), Vuelta a Espana (2nd in 2011 and 2014)
Stage races: Tour of Oman (2013, 2014), Criterium International (2013), Tour de Romandie (2013, 2014, 3rd in 2015), Criterium du Dauphine (2013 and 2015), Vuelta a Andalucia (2015), Tirreno-Adriatico (2nd in 2013)
Day races: British Time-trial Championships (2nd in 2010), Olympic Games Time-trial (3rd in 2012), World Championships Team Time-trial (3rd in 2013)
Awards: Velo d’Or (2013), Velo Magazine International Cyclist of the Year (2013)
Results and standings
Overall Classification (Top 10)
1. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 84:46:14
2. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) +1:12
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) +5:25
4. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) +8:36
5. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) +9:48
6. Robert Gesink (NED/LNL) +10:47
7. Bauke Mollema (NED/TRE) +15:14
8. Mathias Frank (SUI/IAM) +15:39
9. Romain Bardet (FRA/AG2R) +16:00
10. Pierre Rolland (FRA/EUR) +17:30
Stage 21 results (top 3)
1. Andre Greipel (GER/LOT) 2:49:41sec
2. Bryan Coquard (FRA/EUC) same time
3. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/KAT)
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/MTN)
5. Arnaud Démare (FRA/FDJ)
6. Mark Cavendish (GBR/ETI)
7. Peter Sagan (SVK/TIN)
8. John Degenkolb (GER/GIA)
9. Michael Matthews (AUS/ORI)
10. Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU/CAN)
Team Classification (top 3)
1. Movistar (Spain) 255:24:24
2. Team Sky (Britain) +57:23
3. Tinkoff - Saxo (Russia) +1:00:12
Youth classification (top 3)
1. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 84:47:26”
2. Romain Bardet (FRA/AG2R) +14:48”
3. Warren Barguil (FRA/GIA) +30:03”
Points classification (top 3)
1. Peter Sagan (SVK/TIN) 432
2. Andre Greipel (GER/LOT) 366
3. John Degenkolb (GER/GIA) 298
Mountain classification (top 3)
1. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 119
2. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 108
3. Romain Bardet (FRA/AG2R) 90
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