PARIS – Chris Froome won the 100th Tour de France on Sunday, having dominated rivals over 3 weeks on the road and adroitly dealt with doping suspicions off it.
In 2 years, Britain has now had two different winners: Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and then Froome, a cooler, calmer, more understated but no less determined character than his Sky teammate with famous sideburns.
Froome rode into Paris in style – in the yellow race leader’s jersey he took on Stage 8 in the Pyrenees and never relinquished, vigorously fending off rivals whose concerted challenges turned this Tour into a thriller. Froome and his Sky teammates linked arms as they rode for the line.
The 100th edition was visually stunning, starting with its first swing through Corsica, France’s so-called “island of beauty,” before veering through the Pyrenees to Brittany, then to the race’s crescendo in the Alps – 2,115 miles in total.
The 100th Tour treated itself to a late-afternoon start for its final Stage 21 so the riders raced a few hours later on the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees as the sun cast golden hues over the peloton and the shadows lengthened over the dense crowds.
As per tradition and because Froome’s big race lead made him untouchable, Sunday’s 82-mile final ride was a largely leisurely affair until the pace picked up sharply on the Champs-Elysees. Marcel Kittel won the final sprint on that famous avenue, the German sprinter’s fourth stage win.
Riders pedaled up to Froome to congratulate him; he sipped from a flute of champagne as he rode; a Tour organizer stuck an arm from his car window to shake Froome’s hand. Peter Sagan colored his beard green to celebrate the green jersey he won for picking up the most points in sprints.
“It’s a dream to arrive in yellow on the Champs-Elysees,” Froome said before leading the pack from Versailles. “C’est formidable.”
Nairo Quintana, the 23-year-old Colombian who secured second place behind Froome with an impressive win on Saturday’s penultimate Stage 20, laughed as third-placed Joaquim Rodriguez tried to spark up a cigar in the saddle. The wind seemed to snuff out his lighter.
Neither Froome, Quintana nor Rodriguez have ever failed a drug test or been directly implicated in any of cycling’s litany of doping scandals.
Froome’s clear physical superiority made him overwhelming favorite going into the Tour and carried him through it. His winning margin of more than 5 minutes was the largest since 1997, when Jan Ullrich – who has since admitted to doping – beat Richard Virenque – who also confessed to using performance-enhancers – by 9 minutes and 9 seconds.
Scottish rider David Millar, who completed his 12th Tour on Sunday, said one of Froome’s strengths is that he is able to handle the very intense training needed to win the Tour without getting burned out by it.
“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. I think the sport’s harder than it’s ever been,” Millar said. “In order to win, especially in the manner in which Chris has done it, with the training ... You know, he doesn’t really get time off. It’s very demanding physically and psychologically. But I’m not sure how long anybody can do that for. He’s very Zen-like. I think that’s his big advantage.”