The organisers did all they could to prevent yet another British winner in the world’s most famous bike race… it didn’t work.
Chris Froome rode up the Champs-Élysées on Sunday afternoon in yellow, like he has done for the last three years, for four out of the last five. With his team mates that for the first time won the team prize.
For 98 editions no Brit had ever done it, now it’s five out of the last six editions. With Michael Matthews winning the green jersey and Simon Yates following his twin brother, Adam, in the white jersey that left only one non English speaker in a winner’s jersey.
And well Warren Barguil conducted his interviews for the broadcasts we saw in the UK in English as did third placed Romain Bardet, which you’d think not that long ago would never have happened. The latter also had an inspiration quote on his crossbar in English. Strange.
The organisers had set up parcours – it’s not all English – for Bardet. Fewer time trial miles, fewer mountain top finishes, plenty of descents. They didn’t bargain with Chris Froome coming into this Tour with fewer miles in his legs than previous years. He hadn’t done all the build up races, which he usually raced to win.
Whereas before he grabbed the yellow jersey early on with a vicious attack up a climb and kept onto it while feeling the strain in the final week. This time he lost yellow on a steep climb early but got stronger and was probably the most refreshed he’s been in the final days.
When he lost the yellow jersey to Aru on stage 12 they questioned whether this was the end, the end of the invincibility. He says he didn’t have the legs because he wasn’t fuelled properly, the fact he came out the end of the race with yellow suggests he’s not telling porkies.
When he had his mechanical on stage 15, he got back on to the group of GC contenders in a feat that Dan Martin said only Froome could probably do. The Irishman said they were going full blast and the fact they never really attacked Froome after he reattached suggested they’d cooked themselves to distance him. But he got back.
On the final day in the mountains, stage 18 up the Col d’Izoard, Froome attacked his two remaining competitors, Uran and Bardet, he gapped them but not by a huge amount. The Colombian dragged himself and the Frenchman back to Froome’s wheel. They questioned Froome then, he didn’t have enough to keep the gap but at the end of the stage Bardet, who had done no work in the chase, went over the line before Froome, after a little jink in Froome’s path, while the Canondale rider, who had done all the work in the chase, lost two seconds in the last few feet. That effort took it of him.
In the end neither of them had it in the time trial to overtake Froome, who finished third on the stage, into Marseilles, his joint highest finish on any stage in this tour, of course as those that doubt him point out the first time he hasn’t won a stage since he started being a GC contender in a tour he’s finished.
Well he won the most important race, to yellow.
For all the talk of Bardet’s team attacking Froome en mass, when they did he finished ahead of of his rival on the stage. They claim it was all down to the team as if he had weak teams previously, well he had one less rider than Bardet for most of the race. The time gaps would have been higher if the rules had been enforced.
Yes he lost time to his rivals in the mountain finishes, but he made up time in the TTs, which count you know, there’s no weighted stage times. It’s an all round exercise on the flat, up hill, down dale, in a group and on your own. Merckx won a few TTs by the way.
Should Froome’s victory be discredited because Bardet is poor at one discipline, while not being any better really than Froome at the others. Look at Yates, he had an excellent TT in the opener and did well in the second one, it’s not really his game either.
We’ll see where Froome’s legs are if he enters the Vuelta, which seems likely. Unfinished business there and if he has come out of the Tour in an upward curve, instead of the down as in past years, and wins it then will the doubters stop doubting.
Probably not, I mean even after this now putting him second on the list of TdF winners, with four, just one behind the five time winners, he doesn’t get the credit. Hell, if he joins them next year and beats them after that you doubt he would get it.
Yes those ahead of him had won their last Tour at a younger age than Froome is now but times have changed. Sportsmen aren’t done at 30 these days and Froome doesn’t have to ride every race in the calendar like say Merckx would do.