couldn’t get any better for British cycling.
On a mountain that has had a major impact on British cycling, Chris Froome chose the biggest stage to make his biggest statement. If this really was a yellow winning ride then it couldn’t have been more emphatic.
Four years ago after yo-yoing on and off the main GC contenders group, up that final climb, Brad Wiggins was eventually dropped with 2km to go, coming in 8th. It made him believe that he could climb and one day he could win the yellow jersey.
Forty six years and one day ago Britain’s only real hope for yellow jersey success, before this last few years, Tom Simpson collapsed and died on the very same slope 1km from the summit. It was about at that very spot where Simpson’s death is commemorated that Froome rode himself into the history books.
A hell of a stage that involved 220km of riding before reaching the base of Ventoux. It was as on the last mountain top finish Nairo Quintana that took off. He was up nearly a minute ahead when what was left of Froome’s Sky team, Kennaugh and Porte, put the pedal down. Kennaugh powered it for a number of ks, quickly whittling the leading group down. Then as he peeled off exhausted Porte took over and whittled that group down even further as Roman Kreuziger dropped off the back there was only his team leader and Alberto Contador with him.
At this point Froome went, never getting out of his saddle, he left Contador dancing on his pedals getting nowhere. Soon he was flying up to Quintana. A couple of bursts past the little Columbian were answered by an immediate rejoining and nothing given away by any facial expression. Froome then decided to work with the man he thought would probably win the stage, egging him on to do some of the front work.
But around that Simpson memorial Froome was gone and Quintana had no answer, the gap was already at about 12 seconds as the Brit went under the red kite. It was 29 as Froome went up that last steep section to the finish, sat up and shot his arm in the air in triumph. Not long after he was gulping air from an oxygen tank for some 10-15 minutes.
The nearly 30 seconds on Quintana didn’t matter as much as the amount ticking away before we got a sight of Contador, some five riders later. All that time lost on the crosswinds on stage 13 were made back and more. Much more than just time as well as Froome looks to be head and shoulders ahead of everyone else on the climbs. Quintana is there but come the final couple of kilometres it’s only Froome.
Now he just has to follow it up, as after previous stages where he’s stamped his dominance on the race things haven’t gone so well.
But no matter what comes that stage victory, only the second by a yellow jersey winner on Ventoux, is up there with the best of British cycling through the years. It’s a sad fact that some dullard will get this years recognition for beating one class player on his way to winning Wimbledon when what Froome did in Provence yesterday surpasses all that Murray has done and will ever do.
The French’s day and they haven’t had a stage victory this Tour. This is Britain’s fourth this year to go with 7 last, 11 stages out of the last 36.
Again I offer my apology for asking if Froome could lead with a target on his back after last year’s Vuelta.