Froome ends his odyssey in golden tunic
Published 21/07/2013 | 05:00
Today Chris Froome will ride up the Champs Elysees as the Tour de France winner, having finished third in stage 20 behind the discovery of the race, Nairo Quintana, who rode away from the race leader a kilometre from the finish, and the Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez.
That did not disturb Froome, who knew he had the race won, and crossed the line making a thumbs-up gesture. "The race for the overall is done, for us, it's all over," he said. "The climb was hard, because Quintana and Rodriguez were setting a fast pace, but when I got to the two kilometres to go mark, I knew that it was finished, that the race was as good as won."
Behind Froome, Quintana hit the jackpot: the 23-year old Colombian was already wearing the white jersey of best young rider, and his victory moved him up to second overall in place of Alberto Contador, who had not looked at his ease in any of the race's mountaintop finishes and dropped to fourth, with Rodriguez moving up to third.
The polka-dot jersey for the King of the Mountains also went to Quintana; his runner-up position is Colombia's best ever in the Tour, outstripping Fabio Parra's third overall in 1988. Few riders manage to finish on the podium in their debut Tours; the last to achieve this was Jan Ullrich in 1996.
Quintana rode the climb perfectly, making his final move at the kilometre mark after remaining in the slipstream of Froome and Rodriguez, who did the bulk of the pacemaking in the knowledge that once Contador had slipped out of the reckoning, third place was his for the taking.
This was confirmation of Quintana's immense potential, which has seen him win the Tour de l'Avenir for under 25s and the Tour of the Basque Country.
For most of this brief stage, Quintana's Movistar team had set the pace, and soon after the foot of the Semnoz, the efforts of Alberto Rui Costa and Alejandro Valverde whittled the leaders down to just seven. Rodriguez and Quintana sprang clear with more than eight kilometres still to climb, as Contador began to struggle, and Froome made an electric acceleration to join them. That decided the first three places on the stage, and in the overall standings, and behind it was every man for himself.
Before the serious action began, there was time for Pierre Rolland to make one final attempt to win the King of the Mountains jersey. Rolland had started the stage wearing the polka-dot jersey by virtue of his being in second place in the standings behind Froome, who obviously has to wear the yellow, but he was a single point behind the Briton. That was enough to excite the French media, but Rolland said time and again on Friday night that with 50 points on offer on top of the Semnoz – the Tour brought in a rule last year that the final ascent carries double points – he would be unlikely to win the jersey unless Froome permitted an escape to get several minutes clear.
It was worth a try nonetheless, so as the peloton neared the outskirts of Annecy, Rolland was already ahead, alongside the car brandishing the start flag, which is withdrawn when the field reaches "kilometre zero" and racing begins. Once the flag was pulled in, he went flat out.
The upshot was that a small group formed around him and contested the early hill "primes", with Rolland taking the bulk of the points, at one time getting so desperate that he ran the Basque Igor Anton into the spectators at the side of the road, to stop him coming past.
It was a glorious little cameo, but almost irrelevant once Froome and company stretched their legs on the Semnoz.
No Tour win can be described as routine or ordinary, but there will be some special touches to ensure the 100th Tour has an extraordinary close. Not only will Froome and the other finishers ride all the way up the Champs and around the Arc de Triomphe, the race winner will do so in a unique golden tunic.
The PR people would like this to be referred to in the same reverent tones as the golden fleece – the quest for which has been a constant Tour metaphor since the jersey was first worn in 1919 – but rather spoiled the impression by revealing that the jersey will be sequinned.
That seems a trifle Moulin Rouge for the world's toughest endurance race and it is easy to imagine the man who dreamed up the maillot jaune, that old austerian Henri Desgrange, turning in his grave, but in another sense a sequinned yellow jersey is entirely apposite given the way that the Tour's 100 editions, have frequently married tradition and sporting endeavour with a garish lack of taste.