Froome weathers the storm
ALPE D’HUEZ, France (VN) — The Tour de France ends Sunday in Paris with a flat stage, but a “composed” Chris Froome (Sky) effectively won the race Saturday by holding onto his race lead after a hard journey up cycling’s most famous climb, polishing off a measured three weeks.
Froome lost a minute and 20 seconds to his nearest rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on the climb to the Alpe d’Huez ski resort, but kept cool when others might have cracked. Even if his lead is now not as big as it was one week ago, the 1:12 gap is enough to give Froome a second career overall Tour title on the Champs-Élysées.
“The way he puts up with the abuse he gets, he’s so composed,” Team Principal David Brailsford said.
“A true champion. Britain doesn’t have many champions like this fella.”
Froome came under fire over the final days of the three-week grand tour. Over the Alpine passes, he and Sky appeared to be weakening just as Colombian Nairo Quintana grew stronger.
Quintana soloed away from Froome to arrive at La Toussuire ski resort Friday with 36 seconds extra in hand. Saturday, the Colombian in the white jersey of best young rider gained another 1:22 plus six seconds in time bonuses for finishing second on the stage to Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).
Froome’s head twisted at times. His long limbs wrestled with his black carbon bike. The Kenyan-born Brit, however, kept Quintana in sight and maintained his grip on his yellow jersey in the Alps.
“Nairo really made it hard for us,” Sky lieutenant Richie Porte explained. “To win like this is fantastic, to have a real battle right to the end.”
“I wanted to go for the overall and the stage, but I didn’t have enough time,” Quintana said. “I couldn’t get the gap.”
Quintana should not blame himself for Saturday, because it was consistency over all three weeks that seemed to deliver Froome his win.
“That’s quite a fair assessment of this Tour de France,” Froome said when he met the press for his final conference.
“Obviously if you look at the stage 2 cross winds, the time gained on Mur de Huy, all the points where the GC was decided, there was only one stage where I made my mark, on La Pierre-Saint-Martin. The rest were just about chipping away as much as possible.”
Froome explained that he was “tight-chested” since last week on the second rest day.
“I had a cough. To sit the record straight, I didn’t have to apply for a TUE [therapeutic use exemption] or have any medications. I have been struggling over the last few days.”
Adding in the spitting and the urine toss by unruly spectators and the hacked training data, Brailsford was correct: Froome kept composed during the three weeks en route to this Tour de France title.
For Froome, all that is left is one short and flat stage, a day of celebration in the center of Paris.