BRIANÇON, France (VN) — Chris Froome’s fourth Tour de France title appears sewn up, provided he arrives in Paris on Sunday in one piece.
The 32-year-old Kenya-born Brit never looked more in control than he did on the famous Col d’Izoard summit finish Thursday in the French Alps. Any hopes of an upset by Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) or Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac), now second and third overall, were dashed by Froome.
Froome leads the overall with 23 seconds on Frenchman Bardet and 29 seconds on Colombian Urán, racing for the U.S. team run by Jonathan Vaughters.
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“Even though the Tour isn’t over until you cross the line, I believe we sewed it up today,” Sky teammate Mikel Landa said. “The time trial [stage 20, Saturday] favors Chris, who is feeling strong to finish it off.”
Froome finishing it off would put him ahead of Greg LeMond and two others with three wins. He’d become the only cyclist with four yellow jerseys, because the greats went on to win five times. That is Froome’s goal with a new contract inked this month that runs through 2020.
The fourth title is imminent, assuming Froome passes the time trial exam, 22.5 kilometers around Marseille on Saturday. For a team and rider who excels in the discipline, it should be simple. And based on past results against the same rivals, he should push his advantage further on the eve of the Paris finish.
“I wouldn’t say it is quite won yet,” Froome said with a laugh from the tiny press tent at 2,360 meters. “The toughest part of the Tour is behind us with Alps and Pyrénées done. We have the yellow jersey, Landa sits fourth. It is still a close race, but we are in a good position.”
The win would go toward cementing Froome as this generation’s grand tour boss with Alberto Contador, seven grand tours in his books, withering. Froome would begin to take charge with newcomers continuously budding, from Tom Dumoulin to Esteban Chaves.
If Froome secures his fourth win in Paris, he should confirm his Vuelta a España participation soon after. Those close to the cyclist say that he remains bitter about coming so close, but losing the race last year in a coup by Nairo Quintana and Contador.
First, Froome must finish the time trial in Marseille as experts predict. The insiders’ insights proved wrong in 2008, when Cadel Evans failed to best overall Carlos Sastre for the win. Upsets are uncommon, but not unheard of in the Tour’s final days.
“Obviously it’s not won, but it’s better to be in yellow before the time trial,” Sky’s director Nicolas Portal explained. “There’s no room for a mistake or any bad luck. In theory, Chris is a better time trial rider in than the others, but it’s a tiny gap.”