A weary and philosophical Froome crossed the finish line Friday after dipping off the podium to fourth overall at 2:37 back. With two strong time trialists ahead of him — Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) in second at 2:05 back and Friday’s stage winner Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) in third at 2:24 back — Froome seemed to sense a podium spot is out of reach.
“That’s a secondary thought for me right now,” Froome said of the podium in Paris. “Obviously, the yellow jersey is the main thing and ‘G’ [Geraint Thomas] seems to be set in that regard.”
Of the six Tours he has finished, he’s only once been off the podium, 10 years ago in 2008. It is likely Froome will not be standing on the podium in this Tour after three wins in a row.
The finish-line scene in this lush Pyrenean valley marked a changing of the guard. His Sky teammate Geraint Thomas was corralled for the post-stage podium ceremony as the yellow jersey going into Saturday’s time trial. Froome pedaled alone to the team bus parked 5km down the valley.
“I think we’re in a brilliant position with G in the yellow jersey,” Froome told NBC TV as he rolled past the line. “If Geraint stays upright he should have this wrapped up.”
After winning the 2017 Tour and Vuelta a España as well as the 2018 Giro d’Italia in succession, Froome’s bid for a fourth-straight grand tour victory went off the rails on the Tour’s first stage when he crashed and lost time. He later revealed signs of Giro fatigue in the Alps as teammate Thomas emerged as the Tour’s strongest rider.
A record-tying fifth Tour de France won’t be in the cards this year, yet Froome seemed to have his thoughts elsewhere.
“Well, I’m looking forward to getting home. I have a little baby girl on the way in the next few days,” Froome said. “Hopefully I make it home in time for that. This is now the fourth grand tour that I’ve raced consecutively and I’m looking forward to a bit of rest after this.”
Instead of battling for yellow Friday, Froome was racing to keep his teammate Thomas in yellow. Froome stayed loyal to the end and did what he could to help Thomas.
“I was just hanging on there, doing the most I could,” Froome said. “Trying to marshal Roglic a bit and trying to help out in the final. But it’s the end of long hard weeks and there’s a time trial tomorrow.
“Let’s see how the time trial plays out for tomorrow,” he continued. “Roglic, Dumoulin and ‘G’— they’re all going to be strong, all going to be up there. I imagine it’s all a fight for the podium at this point.”
Froome pedaled alone, lost in his thoughts back to the team bus after an intense battle across the Pyrénées. For the first time in a half-decade, the party in Paris will be for someone else. Is the Froome era over? That’s a question that will be answered another day. Froome seemed ready for this Tour to end.