THE SIGNAL AND THE NOISE
This was the year Chris Froome discovered panache. His exhilarating descent to Luchon and the historic attack with Peter Sagan in the crosswinds to Montpellier seemed to mark a new departure. He’d always had a reputation for attacks on summit finishes, and then for sitting on his lead while his strong Sky team smothered the ambition of his rivals.
However, his time gain from these two stages amounted to just 35 seconds, including 16 seconds of bonuses. His final GC margin over runner-up Romain Bardet was a much healthier 4:05. But Froome didn’t exercise his usual dominance in the mountain stages either. He did chisel handfuls of seconds from various rivals on the uphill finishes at Andorra, Ventoux and Finhaut-Emosson, but he’d not dropped all of his rivals as he’d done in previous years. At St Gervais, he actually conceded time to Bardet and several others.
Chris Froome won the 2016 Tour de France in the time trials. Psychological dominance was established with the leftfield attacks, for which his rivals seemed unprepared. But every one of the riders in the final top 10 bar Richie Porte conceded three minutes or more to Froome in the time trials. (Porte conceded 2:38, but his threat had already been neutralised by a 1:45 loss on stage 2 after a mechanical.)
Runner-up Bardet lost 3:31 over the time trials. Add that to the 35 seconds Froome gained on him in Luchon and Montpellier and you get 4:06. With fewer kilometres of time trials in the 2017 race, Froome may find that the margins are tightening.