Wednesday 22 November 2017

Unmerciful Froome sprints home to seal historic double

Froome is Britain’s first ever winner in the Vuelta. Image: AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Froome is Britain’s first ever winner in the Vuelta. Image: AP Photo/Francisco Seco

Tom Cary

And some people think he is too nice to be a sporting great. Chris Froome secured his place in history last night, becoming the first rider to win the Vuelta a Espana back-to-back with the Tour de France as the race ended beneath a spectacular sunset in Madrid. And he did it in utterly ruthless fashion.

These final stages are meant to be ceremonial for the general-classification contenders. But Froome does not appear inclined to give anything away for free.

Not content with taking the red jersey for the overall race winner, and the white for best in the combined classification, Froome decided to contest the final bunch sprint on the Paseo del Prado, finishing 11th beneath the setting sun to wrap up the green points jersey, too.

Matteo Trentin, the QuickStep rider who won the stage - his fourth stage win of the race - seemed genuinely shocked to be denied the jersey in such circumstances. "Chris told me he wanted to defend the green jersey and he did it," the Italian said rather forlornly. "I won four stages so it's kind of a joke not to win the green jersey but it's like this."

It's like this. Froome may have the mild-mannered exterior of a work experience boy but inside he is quite ruthless. Not quite Eddy Merckx ruthless - the 'Cannibal' was so ravenous he helped himself to more than 500 race wins in his career and won 11 grand tours.

Stature

But that is the sort of company Froome is now starting to keep. This is his fifth grand tour, but it puts Froome in a new bracket in terms of his stature in the sport. It was his first outside of the Tour de France. It was a 'double' that no rider had ever managed before.

Froome actually almost set an unwanted record about half an hour before the end of the race, flirting with disaster as he contested an intermediate sprint with a few laps of the Paseo del Prado. Maybe he was just a bit heady after the champagne consumed on the way in to Madrid, but it was another example of his willingness to contest everything. He is more of a racer than his detractors give him credit for.

"Of course it was a risk I might crash in a bunch sprint, but at the end of the day I'm a bike racer," he said afterwards. "It was probably my only chance of winning a green jersey in my career. When I wake up tomorrow I wanted to be able to say that I tried at least."

After missing out on a BBC Sports Personality nomination last year despite claiming his third Tour title in four years (as well as an Olympic bronze medal and second place in the Vuelta a Espana) Froome was asked after securing the Vuelta title atop the Angliru whether he thought he might get a look-in this year. "I'm not going to hold my breath," he laughed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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