Froome grimly defies pain to clinch title
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.