Resplendent in yellow and riding a canary yellow bike, Chris Froome won his second Tour de France in three years on Sunday, with a leisurely pedal into Paris to wrap up a spectacular three-week slog of furious racing that culminated with a thrilling late fight-back by the British rider’s toughest rival, Colombian Nairo Quintana.
Cheered on the Champs-Elysees under suitably rainy skies for Britain’s third win in the 112-year-old race, Froome took it easy on the last Stage 21, his work done having grimly resisted Quintana’s last-ditch assault on his hard-won Tour lead the previous day on the final Alpine ascent.
Just as when Froome first won in 2013, Quintana was again runner-up, although the margin was much smaller this time: 1 minute, 12 seconds, the tightest win since 2008.
Third-placed Alejandro Valverde, Quintana’s Movistar teammate from Spain, made the podium for the first time, moving up from fourth last year.
On rain-soaked roads that caused numerous spills in the women’s race on the Champs-Elysees before the men rode in, the tired riders didn’t bother racing for much of the largely flat 110-kilometer (68-mile) jaunt from Sevres, in the French capital’s southwest.
To minimize the risk of crashes, Tour organizers stopped the clock early, on the first of 10 laps up and down the Champs-Elysees’ slick cobblestones.
That locked in Froome’s Tour lead to guarantee his victory, generating a broad smile as he rode up the avenue lined with flag-waving spectators. He still had to ride the 10 laps to complete the full race distance, but could do so without nerves, knowing the title was his. He didn’t have to panic when a paper bag got stuck in his back wheel. He simply stopped and changed bikes.
Nor did he have to speed up when sprinters and their teams dashed ahead at the end for the prestigious stage win. Andre Greipel snatched that, his fourth stage win and Germany’s sixth at this Tour.
The early pace was so pedestrian that Froome had time to raise a glass of Champagne in the saddle and to stop to put on a raincoat under the iconic yellow jersey. To mark the special occasion, Froome’s Team Sky support riders wore yellow stripes on their shorts and helmets, bright in sunshine that broke through clouds late in the stage and dried out puddles.
Froome and his teammates finished together linked in a line, their arms over each other’s shoulders, with the yellow jersey winner grinning in the middle.
The team’s powerful riding, chasing down rivals in the mountains and protecting Froome on the flats, was vital for his win and proved that winning cycling’s toughest race isn’t simply an individual achievement.
Also important was the meticulous planning and attention to detail of Dave Brailsford, the organizational brains at Sky. Having set the goal in 2009 of nurturing Britain’s first Tour winner within five years, Sky has won three of the last four, with Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and now two with Froome.
That puts Britain on a par with the United States, with three wins from Greg LeMond — and minus seven stripped from Lance Armstrong for doping.