PARIS (AP) — Chris Froome is the second successive British rider to win the Tour de France. Here’s a look at his key moments:
Froome only had a few difficult moments on the bike. But one of those happened before the race had begun, with Froome tumbling off his bike after clipping a curb and grazing his right knee before the Stage 1 start. He changed bikes and returned to the peloton ahead of the official flag drop to start the Tour. If anything, it was the right time to fall because Froome avoided a heavy crash later on in the stage, when organizers changed the finish line area at the last minute because a team bus was camped on the line and unable to move.
”If that’s the only crash I have this Tour, I’ll take that,” Froome said at the time.
The first week of the Tour was about avoiding crashes and drinking enough water to cope with the searing heat as the race moved from Corsica and along the Mediterranean to Nice, Marseille and Montpellier. Once the race hit the high mountains of the Pyrenees, Froome launched a devastating attack on the last climb up to Ax 3 Domaines, and none of his rivals could even come close to catching him. That earned him the race leader’s yellow jersey – and the first question about doping. Froome’s incredible uphill speed drew comparisons to serial doping cheat Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of all seven Tour titles. Froome said he understood the suspicion but insisted he is clean. It would be the first of a barrage of questions he and Sky team manager Dave Brailsford would have to answer.
Isolated in the Pyrenees on a day when his Sky teammates fell apart, Froome had to withstand attacks from rivals all on his own. Colombian climber Nairo Quintana attacked him four times on the last climb but couldn’t break the Briton’s resolve. It was a defining moment as it showed he could defend just as well as he attacks.
Rest Day 1
Why was this rest day significant? Because Froome and Brailsford had to answer several questions about doping as the atmosphere started to turn sour. Self-professed Twitter experts provided a myriad of data, cycling blogs were full of comparisons with Armstrong and mainstream media outlets were keen to probe into why Froome is so good. It was a mere appetizer compared to what would happen on Rest Day 2.
Froome comes second to Tony Martin in the first time trial, missing out on victory by 12 seconds. It was still a victorious day for Froome as he finished more than 2 minutes ahead of archrival Alberto Contador and extended his race lead over the Spaniard to nearly 4 minutes.
For the first and only time, Froome loses to Contador after the Spaniard launched a clever late attack on a windy sprint stage to claw back more than 1 minute. It raised hopes – which proved fleeting – that the 2007 and ’09 champion could close the gap.
Froome did it again: another solo burst on the last climb up Mont Ventoux in Provence, one of the Tour’s most famed climbs. Froome showed rare emotion as he spoke of the pride he felt wearing the yellow jersey on the 100th Tour. His lead over Contador grew to 4 minutes, 25 seconds.
Rest Day 2
More questions about doping. Froome and Brailsford again assured reporters that they are racing clean. Brailsford offered to give the World Anti-Doping Agency unlimited access to Froome’s performance data. Froome snapped: ”Lance Armstrong cheated. I’m not cheating. End of story.”
Froome clinched his third stage victory, finally getting the time trial win he craved on a hilly course. Froome made up ground in the last third of the course after changing bikes, beating Contador by 9 seconds to move 4:34 ahead of him.
Froome assured everyone he would not go for any more stage wins in the three tough Alpine stages of the race. He stayed safe on Stages 18 and 19, but could not resist one last go on the penultimate 20th stage, jousting with Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez on the day’s last climb up to Annecy-Semnoz. This time, Quintana beat him. But Froome still managed to extend his lead over Contador, who slipped off the podium and down to fourth.
Nothing left for Froome to do except ride safely on the processional stage and then enjoy a glass or three of chilled Champagne.