FROOME SEALS FOURTH VICTORY
MARSEILLE, FRANCE» Chris Froome stands on the doorstep of the Tour de France’s greatest champions.
Sewing up his fourth Tour crown with a cool-as-a-cucumber ride in a high-pressure time trial in heat-baked Marseille on Saturday means he needs just one victory more to join the record-holders who have five.
His winning margin, 54 seconds over Rigoberto Uran of Colombia going into Sunday’s processional final stage, is narrower than Froome’s previous wins in 2013, 2015, and 2016.
Over the three weeks, Froome executed fewer of his trademark devastating accelerations in the high mountains. He ran out of gas and temporarily lost the race lead on a supersteep climb in the Pyrenees. He didn’t win any of the 20 stages before Sunday’s Stage 21, which is traditionally a peaceful ride into Paris with only the sprinters dashing for the line at the end, for the bragging right of winning the stage on the Champs-elysees.
But Froome at 90 or 95 percent still proved plenty.
Certainly good enough to be able to start dreaming of win No. 5 — and of joining the exalted company of Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. They have been the joint leaders since Lance Armstrong’s string of seven doping-assisted victories was expunged from the history of the 114-year-old race.
“It’s a huge honor just to be mentioned in the same sentence as the greats,” Froome said. “I have got a new-found appreciation for just how difficult it is for those guys to have won five Tour de France. It certainly isn’t getting easier each year.”
Yet he made the deciding time trial look easy enough. To boos and whistles from the partisan crowd backing Romain Bardet, the French rider who was only 23 seconds behind him in the overall standings, Froome set off last from the Stade Velodrome football stadium.
The suspense was quickly over. By the first time check, after just six miles of riding, Froome was already 43 seconds quicker than Bardet. The only question became whether Bardet would even be able to save a place for himself on the podium. He did, by the narrowest of margins. Just one second was all that separated his third place from Mikel Landa of Spain, Froome’s teammate in fourth.
“I didn’t think it would come down to this TT in Marseille. There was a bit of pressure but, for me, it’s always a good thing having pressure,” Froome said.
The time trial was won by Polish rider Maciej Bodnar, who covered the distance at an average speed of nearly 30 mph on the special aerodynamic bikes the riders used for the discipline.
Britain’s Chris Froome, wearing the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey, finishes Saturday’s time trial in Marseille, France, after extending his lead.