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Chris Froome : Step To Glory

news22.07.2013After the race

FROOME Christopher (GBR) Sky Procycling © Presse Sports

«For me, what this represents to be right here the yellow jersey at the Tour de France... it's difficult for me to put into words.» Chris Froome was the runner-up in the 2012 Tour de France and one year later he has become the champion. He has emerged as a true general classification specialist, a rare breed of rider who are formidable in all manner of racing, with particular strength on climbs and in time trials. The evolution has been a steady one but he arrival as a Grand Tour contender happened two years ago when he became the default leader of the Sky team and finished second in the Vuelta a España, one place ahead of last year's Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins. «Up until then,» he said of the Vuelta in 2011, «I found it very difficult to be able to put my performances consistently high throughout a stage race. 

“I'd have good days and showings of what I was able to achieve. But I'd never be able to back it up all the way through.” Now he can. He has all the qualities of a rider who can beat the best in the world in the biggest race of all. And many suggested as early as last year, his second Tour de France, that Froome could have been the winner. He won the tough stage to La Planches des Belles Filles in 2012 but he was committed to his assigned duties as a domestique for Wiggins.

From the moment he stepped off the podium last July, he knew what his role would be at Sky in 2013: to help the team win a second successive title. “My worst moment in the race,” Froome confessed after stage 20, “was on Alpe d'Huez when I could feel I was completely flat of energy. It's a horrible feeling…“ The two stages in the Pyrenees put Froome in the yellow and elevated Alejandro Valverde to second place overall but things in the top order would change regularly throughout the 2013... except for one thing: the race leader would remain steadfast and often increase his advantage on his rivals. Second place in the first long time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel served Froome well as he lifted his advantage up to 3'25” at the halfway mark of the Tour.

But the challenges would keep on coming. En route to Saint-Amand-Montrond, two teams combined to exploit the windy conditions: first Omega Pharma-Quickstep split the peloton in a dramatic manner and then Saxo-Tinkoff finished off the 13th stage by isolating Froome once again and elevating Alberto Contador up to third overall. There would be a succession of men in the runner-up position after Froome took the lead: Porte, Valverde, Mollema, Contador… and ultimately, the best young rider in the race, Nairo Quintana.

The 2013 route was said to be “one for the climbers” from the moment of the route announcement last October and it ultimately proved to be that with the final podium comprised of specialists in the mountains: Froome, Quintana and last year's world number-one Joaquim Rodriguez. But the final places on the podium were not established until the penultimate stage when this trio filled the top three places at the top of the final ‘hors category' climb of the 100th edition.

The second of Froome's three stage wins this year was achieved in the yellow jersey and it happened at a sacred site for cycling, Mont Ventoux. This is when he and Quintana put their climbing prowess on display and finished well clear of their nearest rivals. The race winner declared this to be his favourite moment of his victorious ride. But one more victory was yet to come.
Froome was second behind Wiggins in both of the long time trials of the 2012 Tour but he won his second stage while wearing the yellow jersey in what many riders declared to be “the toughest time trial” they've ever done, from Embrun to Chorges. Rodriguez was third and continued his steady rise up the overall rankings. Froome, meanwhile, kept on adding to his advantage over his nearest rivals and it would continue all the way to Le Grand Bornand when he was 5'11” ahead of Contador. This would be the biggest gap between first and second overall.

Froome started watching road cycling in 2003 and he made his pro debut with a South African team in 2007. By then he had already caught the attention of the general manager of the Sky team at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, back in 2006. After several years of racing with the Barloworld squad where he earned his first start in the Tour (finishing 84th overall in 2008) he was recruited for the British team's inaugural season in 2010.

“When I very first joined Team Sky, they asked me what my aspirations were and what I wanted to achieve,” explained Froome. “I said to them, ‘Can we set out some shorter term goals, some medium term goals and some longer term goals – some ‘dream' goals – and being able to target the Tour de France was one of those longer term goals but to be sitting here, three years after joining the team, in yellow the day before the Tour goes to Paris... I can't say I would have seen that coming.” So what happens next? Is the 2014 Tour, which begins in Yorkshire, part of Froome's future ambitions? He's not yet certain... but he'd like it to be.

The news in pictures

photo23/07/2013 

FROOME Christopher (GBR) Sky Procycling © Presse Sports

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Jersey wearers after the stage 21

Classifications after the stage 21

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