FROOME SEALS FOURTH VIC­TORY

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By John Le­ices­ter and Sa­muel Pe­tre­quin

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.

Christophe Ena, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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