Chris Froome, the go-between
He flies the flag of the United Kingdom but his roots are in Africa. As he claimed his fourth title without winning a single stage – he took seven stages in six participations, which is very little compared to twenty-eight in eight participations for Hinault for instance – he’s not someone who has a dominant position although his team has.
Moreover, he’s the champion who has adjusted his tactic to the routes so far. He came second in his first Tour de France that included more than 100km of individual time trialing. He won the 100th edition throughout the grueling climbs of Port de Pailhères and Mont Ventoux. He overcame the crosswinds and the pavés in 2015 to take the lead even before the team time trial and the first ascent at La Pierre-St-Martin. In 2016, instead of waiting for the fights uphill, he rode away in a downhill, something that was certainly not his forte in his early days. He also went on the offensive on a flattish and windy terrain with Peter Sagan. He even ran on the Mont Ventoux when his bike was out of order! The route of the 2017 Tour de France had the characteristics to make it harder for Team Sky to win but they had their grip on the race more than ever, with nineteen days in the yellow jersey and leading the teams’ classification from day 1 to 21.
Froome warned before the race that winning this year would be his biggest challenge up to date because of the route: no TTT, very few kilometers of ITT, only three summit finishes in which he eventually didn’t make any difference. He was even close to losing it all at Peyragudes as he had a bad day on stage 12. He was consistent and saved himself in every difficult situation like when he had a broken spoke in a crucial moment in the Massif Central. On the other hand, his rivals didn’t have that necessary consistence. Richie Porte badly crashed, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana were below their expected level, Fabio Aru who had the yellow jersey for two days suffered from bronchitis, Romain Bardet couldn’t find his rhythm against the clock [his deficit to Froome was 2.36 in 36.5km in Düsseldorf and Marseille, which is more than four seconds per kilometer].
From his four overall victories, Froome retains this one as “the closest and more hard fought of them”. He didn’t win the Tour by less than one minute previously. His former team-mate Rigoberto Uran was the surprise guest on the podium, only fifty-four seconds adrift in the overall ranking. Froome is finally chasing a record. He’ll be back to equal the four giants in 2018.