Froome grimly de­fies pain to clinch ti­tle

SundayXtra - - TOUR DE FRANCE -

jump­ing by 30 sec­onds each time. It was slowly mov­ing up 5-10 sec­onds at a time.”

Thibaut Pinot won Satur­day’s Stage 20, the third French vic­tory of this Tour. Vic­to­ria’s Ry­der Hes­jedal was third for the third time in his ca­reer, fin­si­hing 41 sec­onds be­hind Pinot. The Cana­dian, who rides for Team Can­non­daleGarmin, is 40th in the over­all clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

But it was Quin­tana’s bold last as­sault and Froome’s te­na­cious de­fence that pro­vided the thrilling fi­nale to a spec­tac­u­lar race.

The one minute, 12 sec­onds Froome pre­served over Quin­tana will see him crowned the win­ner on the Champ­sÉlysées.

“An amaz­ing, amaz­ing feel­ing,” he said.

Froome es­sen­tially won this Tour on the first big climbs in the Pyre­nees in Week 2 when, closely fol­lowed by team­mate Richie Porte, he tri­umphed at the La Pierre- Saint-Martin ski sta­tion to give him a big time cush­ion. He picked that climb weeks ear­lier in train­ing as the place to make his move.

That decisive blow car­ried Froome through those moun­tains and the hilly Mas­sif Cen­tral re­gion on the way to the Alps, and — with the ex­cep­tion of Quin­tana — re­signed other con­tenders to fight for sec­ond and third.

Ul­ti­mately, Quin­tana left him­self too much to do on the last of four days in the Alps. Just as in 2013, he’ll fin­ish run­ner-up again to Froome.

Quin­tana said time lost in the first week cost him dearly.

Still, he said: “Sec­ond at the Tour de France isn’t half-bad.”

Their en­gross­ing, de­vel­op­ing ri­valry is box of­fice for the sport af­ter the rav­ages wrought by Lance Armstrong’s era of sys­tem­atic dop­ing and ly­ing.

At age 25, Quin­tana’s fu­ture is ahead. He again will win the white jersey as the Tour’s best young rider.

At 30, Froome can still add to his soon-to-be two Tour wins, and says he sees him­self com­pet­ing for at least another six or seven years.

But on this Tour’s ev­i­dence, Quin­tana is get­ting closer to find­ing Froome’s break­ing point. In 2013, Froome won with a lead of four min­utes, 20 sec­onds. This Tour wasn’t so com­fort­able.

“Nairo pushed me all the way to the end, lit­er­ally,” Froome said. “We’ll be back for the re­match.”

On the Alpe d’Huez, Froome clung to the life­line of his team­mates Porte and Wouter Poels, who kept glanc­ing be­hind to make sure their leader was still on their wheels. “They saved it for me,” Froome said. Bar­ring fur­ther loss of time in to­day’s largely cer­e­mo­nial ride, which is very un­likely, Froome’s win­ning mar­gin will be the small­est since Car­los Sas­tre beat Cadel Evans by 58 sec­onds in 2008.

Quin­tana’s Mo­vis­tar team­mate, Ale­jan­dro Valverde, will take third over­all, 5:25 back.

Froome, his voice rough, said at his win­ner’s press con­fer­ence he’s bat­tled a cough and “been strug­gling” in the Alps.

Although un­in­tended, those first signs of vul­ner­a­bil­ity shot holes in the idea his dom­i­nant rid­ing in the Pyre­nees was some­how fishy. Such doubts re­flected the cli­mate of sus­pi­cion that pre­vails post-Armstrong, de­spite tighter drug test­ing.

Froome has de­fended him­self against re­peated ques­tions about dop­ing, and how he gen­er­ates such power. He did so with calm and pa­tience, in­sist­ing cy­cling has moved on from the “Wild West” era of Tours won with dop­ing.

But af­ter a spec­ta­tor threw urine at him on Stage 14, the mild-man­nered Froome showed steel, blam­ing “very ir­re­spon­si­ble” com­men­ta­tors for sour­ing public opin­ion.

Some spec­ta­tors spat at him — in­clud­ing, he said, on Satur­day’s fi­nal climb.

“There’s been so much go­ing on in the back­ground,” Froome said. “I’ve done noth­ing wrong. I’ve done noth­ing to de­serve this.”


Tour leader Chris Froome climbs to­wards Alpe d’Huez dur­ing the 20th stage of the Tour de France Satur­day.

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