Apprentice to master: Froome wins Tour de France
PARIS — The apprentice became the master as the wheels stopped turning in the 100th Tour de France on a balmy Paris evening.
The man they called “super domestique” for his selfless service in helping Sir Bradley Wiggins to the 2012 crown is now top dog.
Chris Froome won the world’s greatest cycling road race Sunday to become the second successive Briton to win the Tour.
The 28-year-old, runner-up in 2012, had pulled on the yellow jersey for the first time after the eighth stage of the 21-leg epic and from then on was never really challenged.
Froome, who won three stages, finished four minutes and 20 seconds ahead of the field.
Fellow climber Colombian Nairo Quintana — a future prospect at just 23 years old — finished as King of the Mountains and second overall.
Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez took the final place on the podium, finishing third ahead of Spanish stalwart Alberto Contador.
For the second year running, Slovakian Peter Sagan claimed the green jersey. The 23-year-old led the sprint category for 38 out of the 41 days he has raced in the Tour.
A twilight finale saw the peloton parade past some famous Parisian landmarks, including the royal palace of Versailles and the Louvre museum, before a 10-lap loop of the Champs-Elysees came down to an intense sprint that was won by German Marcel Kittel ahead of Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish.
Froome finished the day-night stage in 114th place but after the glitzy centennial celebrations fizzled out he stood alone, shaking his head in disbelief, under the Arc De Triomphe as the Tour champion.
“I’d like to dedicate this win to my late mother who without her encouragement to follow my dream I’d probably be watching this event on the television,” Froome said on the podium.
“To win the 100th edition is an honor beyond any dream. This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time.”
Froome certainly learned valuable lessons supporting Wiggins in last year’s Tour but his raw talent was forged cycling in the rural highlands of Kenya, where he was born.
Kenyan cycling champion David Kinjah was Froome’s first mentor — long before Team Sky maestro Sir David Brailsford began to shape his career.
“He was just funny and happy, a white boy who accepted our village and ate our food,” Kinjah recalled on BBC radio station 5 live.
“He would want to complete each and every training ride and he wouldn’t stop. If he decided he wanted to complete the whole 100km he would do exactly that.
“No matter how much pain or how many hours he went through he would keep riding to the end.”
Brailsford has also credited Froome’s steely ambition to his battle with bilharzia — a parasitic disease which he contracted during his childhood in Africa.
Froome himself struggled to describe his feelings as he reflected on his route to success.
“For me, what this represents — the journey I’ve taken to get here from where I started, riding on a little mountain bike back on dirt roads in Kenya,” he told reporters in France.
“To be right here, the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, the biggest event on our cycling calendar… it’s difficult for me to put into words.”
The Tour may have finished in glory and glitter under Parisian lights but the world’s most famous cycle race is still ridden in the shadow of Lance Armstrong’s dubious legacy.
The American was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after admitting earlier this year to persistent use of banned substances during his halcyon days of domination.
It was almost inevitable that some of Froome’s performances raised eyebrows during his ride to victory.
In this year’s first mountain stage, the Briton won the energy-sapping 195-kilometer (121-mile) ride from Castres to Ax 3 Domaines 51 seconds ahead of his closest rival.
There was another dominant performance from the 28-year-old as he conquered the gruelling Mont Ventoux — at 150 miles the longest stage of the Tour — just days later.
Froome had to be given oxygen after his arduous efforts but his obvious fatigue did not stop questions being asked.
In an attempt to end the finger-pointing surrounding Froome, Team Sky gave French newspaper L’Equipe data of 18 of his climbs since he made his major breakthrough in 2011.
The French newspaper’s sports science expert, Fred Grappe, was satisfied the results were consistent with doping-free riding.
Commenting on the spectre of doping on broadcaster Eurosport 2 Froome said: “On the back of the history of the sport and recent revelations whoever was wearing the yellow jersey was going to come under a lot of scrutiny.
“I hope I’ve shown the sport has changed and we as the peloton won’t stand for it any longer.”
Wiggins, who pulled out of this year’s Tour because of a knee condition, told CNN that cycling’s troubled history is now most useful when it is used in a light and shade comparison to where the sport was — and where it is heading.
“It’s had a tainted history but I think all that is a reminder of where the sport was and where it is now,” he said. “And it’s in a great position.”
And after emerging from shadows of his own, Froome will agree the future is bright.
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