FROOME SAVORING HIS TOUGH­EST TI­TLE

54-sec­ond win feels sweeter than past blowouts

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Rome Pug­mire

PARIS» Af­ter the cham­pagne bub­bles fade and Chris Froome drifts away from his Sun­day night cel­e­bra­tions to re­flect on a fourth Tour de France win, he may do so with greater fond­ness than the oth­ers.

The first, in 2013, brought the burst­ing pride of a first suc­cess. But he won by more than four min­utes, as he did last year. Although Nairo Quin­tana fin­ished a lit­tle over one minute be­hind him in 2015, this year’s cham­pi­onship — by just 54 sec­onds — over an­other Colom­bian cy­clist, Rigoberto Uran, tastes sweeter.

“This Tour has been my tough­est yet,” Froome said.

Froome tem­po­rar­ily lost the race lead to dar­ing Ital­ian rider Fabio Aru in the Pyre­nees on a huge climb to the ski sta­tion of Peyragudes, and thought he’d lost it al­to­gether two days later.

Last Sun­day in Rodez, Froome was forced to change his rear wheel for the fi­nal 25 miles af­ter a spoke broke. He got dropped, drift­ing way be­hind the pelo­ton.

“I was just stand­ing there on the side of the road with my team­mate Michal Kwiatkowski,” Froome said. “I thought it was po­ten­tially game over.”

Rid­ing with un­chained fury, Kwiatkowski and Froome bridged the gap — and saved his Tour.

Fast for­ward to Satur­day’s penul­ti­mate stage in Mar­seille and a time trial — one of his strong­est dis­ci­plines. Froome was right back in the as­cen­dency and clos­ing in on Tour vic­tory No. 4.

Yet the fu­ture cham­pion from Bri­tain was jeered by fans at the Stade Velo­drome soc­cer sta­dium as he be­gan his ride, and more jeers fol­lowed along the route.

Froome had urine chucked over him on a pre­vi­ous Tour, so boo­ing was hardly go­ing to unset­tle him. He was al­most chival­rous on the podium Sun­day, ad­dress­ing fans in ad­mirable French.

“Thank you for the wel­come and your gen­eros­ity,” Froome said, with un­in­ten­tional irony. “Your pas­sion for this race makes it re­ally spe­cial. I fell in love with this race.”

This was the third con­sec­u­tive win for the Team Sky rider.

Chris Graythen, Getty Images

Chris Froome of Great Bri­tain, rid­ing for Team Sky in the yel­low leader’s jer­sey, cel­e­brates Sun­day in Paris af­ter win­ning the Tour de France for the fourth time. “This Tour has been my tough­est yet,” Froome said.

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