PARIS (VN) — Chris Froome has won the Tour de France for the fourth time.
The 32-year-old Briton from Team Sky crossed the finish line on the Champs-Élysées near the back of the peloton, one hand in the air and with his entire team around him.
It was the closest Tour in years, decided not with daring uphill attacks but by the methodical accumulation of seconds. Fifty-four seconds, to be precise, was narrow gap over second place Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac). Romain Bardet (AG2R) clutched third by just one second, 2’20 down on Froome.
The victory brings Froome’s Tour win count to four. Only Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain have won more Tours de France. Each has five.
“I never dreamed of being up there of even come close to Eddy Merckx, Anquetil, or Indurain. It’s amazing to be in this position, it’s such a privilege,” Froome said.
The Tour was once again won on the back of Froome’s impressive time trials. While many of his rivals, including Urán, Bardet, and Astana’s Fabio Aru, were able to match Froome in the high mountains they were unable to do so against the clock.
“The key for me in the Tour with respect to Froome was the 51 seconds I lost in the opening stage time-trial in Dusseldorf,” Urán said. “In the mountains there wasn’t much difference and I improved a lot.”
Froome gained 1’16” over second-place Uran across the Tour’s two time trials, a wider gap than his 54” win margin.
“Given the course we had this year it was always the tactic to ride a three week race and not go out one day with the aim to blow the race apart or smash it with a stage win,” Froome said. “It was just about chipping away on eveyr stage and making sure there weren’t any major losses on anyway.”
The Sky leader’s race was not without its setbacks. After failing to eat enough on the stage to Peyragudes, Froome lost seconds and the yellow jersey to the Italian Aru, dropping badly in the final 300 meters of the steep climb.
“I’m grateful it wasn’t any worse than that,” Froome said of the stage. “If you have a bad day in the mountains you can lose minutes.”
Aru would return the jersey two days later in a seemingly innocuous but decisive stage that seemed to characterize the unusual nature of this Tour de France.
“It’s certainly not getting any easier,” Froome said. “This one was the closest of my Tour de France career.”
As Froome dropped atop the Peyragudes, his teammate Mikel Landa rode on, fueling speculation that the domestique may want to challenge for victory. That issue was settled in stage 9, as Chris Froome suffered the second ill-timed mechanical of the race and was forced to chase while Bardet’s AG2R pushed on. Landa dropped off the lead group to pull his leader back to the front.
Wary of Froome’s time trial prowess, his rivals looked to the final stages in the Alps to make the time they needed ahead of Saturday’s Marseilles time trial. Bardet was particularly active, setting his entire team against the face of the Col d’Izoard and adding attacks of his own near its peak.
Nothing could break Fortress Froome, though, or his exceptional team. He came into the final time trial with a healthy gap, and only extended that lead. A fourth yellow jersey, earned against the clock and in the Tour’s unpredictable margins, was his.