FROOME’S FEAT

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - IAN PARKER SPORTS RE­PORTER ■ Email: yp.sport@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @YPS­port

Bri­tish rider com­pletes his­toric tre­ble by claim­ing Giro d’Italia win in Rome

CHRIS FROOME won his sixth Grand Tour in Rome yes­ter­day and it will go down as his most re­mark­able.

He may have been one of the pre-race favourites when the 101st Giro d’Italia be­gan in Jerusalem, but a suc­ces­sion of crashes and cracks left him al­most five min­utes down as the fi­nal week be­gan.

Perhaps the on­go­ing bat­tle to clear his name af­ter a pos­i­tive test for Salbu­ta­mol at last year’s La Vuelta had taken a big­ger men­tal and physical toll than any­one ex­pected.

Or perhaps he was sim­ply finding out how dif­fi­cult the am­bi­tious Giro-Tour dou­ble, last achieved by Marco Pan­tani in 1998, re­ally is.

As his deficit grew there were even ru­mours of Froome with­draw­ing from the race to con­cen­trate on the Tour, but this is the Giro d’Italia – a race known for late twists in the tale – and Froome vowed to race on and do the best he could “whether that be 20th, sec­ond or first”. Against ev­ery­thing fac­ing him on and off the bike, Froome pro­duced a most re­mark­able come­back to be­come the first man since Bernard Hin­ault in 1982-83 to hold all three Grand Tour ti­tles at the same time, adding the Giro to last year’s Tour de France and La Vuelta vic­to­ries – even as he fights to keep that Vuelta crown.

As he spent the sec­ond rest day star­ing at that yawn­ing deficit to the leader’s pink jersey, no doubt he knew the race’s his­tory.

This is the third year in a row the race leader’s pink jersey has changed hands in the fi­nal three days, with the first of that run won by Vin­cenzo Nibali who had, like Froome, been al­most five min­utes down in­side the fi­nal week.

But he also knew that his train­ing pro­gramme for a rare as­sault on the Giro-Tour dou­ble meant he had ar­rived at the race un­der­cooked, looking to peak in the fi­nal week and sus­tain his form into July.

It ap­pears that plan has been ex­e­cuted per­fectly.

Froome’s vic­tory on stage 19 – the day he ef­fec­tively won the Giro – will live long in the mem­ory, a most dar­ing at­tack from 80 kilo­me­tres out on what race or­gan­is­ers had la­belled the queen stage. The at­tack oblit­er­ated Simon Yates, the 25-year-old from Bury who had illuminated the first two weeks of the race with an at­tack­ing style which earned him a long run in pink. This ex­pe­ri­ence will have been painful, but will only stand him in good stead for a bright fu­ture.

Froome’s Team Sky are of­ten crit­i­cised for mak­ing races ‘bor­ing’ with their con­trol­ling tac­tics but, while that may be true of the Tour de France in re­cent years – of which Froome has won four of the last five – this vic­tory came off the back of an ex­tra­or­di­nary am­bush and dis­play of at­tack­ing bravado. Their tac­tics are not dogma, sim­ply a case of what works.

But no mat­ter how hard he soared on the fi­nal Fri­day of the race, Froome can­not es­cape the Salbu­ta­mol cloud that con­tin­ues to hang over him. Soon af­ter he launched his at­tack on the Finestre, two fans dressed as doc­tors ran af­ter him bran­dish­ing a gi­ant in­haler, and af­ter he crossed the fin­ish line he faced more ques­tions from the me­dia.

“I know I have done noth­ing wrong and soon that will be clear to every­one,” said Froome, who held off a spir­ited se­ries of at­tacks from defending cham­pion Du­moulin on stage 20 from Susa, to stretch his lead to 46 sec­onds.

“There will al­ways be one comment or an­other but the fans in Italy have been great.”

Froome could yet lose his Vuelta ti­tle over the is­sue, but Giro di­rec­tor Mauro Vegni has said he has re­as­sur­ances from UCI pres­i­dent David Lap­par­tient that he will keep his pink jersey.

Nei­ther man wanted Froome to be at this race – the eas­i­est way to avoid the rush to add as­ter­isks to his re­sult – but nei­ther can now deny the pure drama his per­for­mances brought to the fi­nal days.

Froome’s vic­tory on stage 19 will live long in the mem­ory. Ian Parker on the day Chris Froome took con­trol of the Giro d’Italia.

PIC­TURE: AP/GRE­GO­RIO BOR­GIA

PRETTY IN PINK: Chris Froome with the Giro d’Italia tro­phy af­ter winning the sixth Grand Tour ti­tle of his ca­reer.

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