Sunday 18 February 2018

Tour de France: Froome climbs to brink of immortality

Chris Froome
Chris Froome

Ian Chadband

Just 125kms, three and a half long, long hours and six mountain climbs now for Chris Froome to ascend to the pantheon of cycling greats. By tonight, forbidding extraordinary mishaps, he will climb the final, imposing Alpine barrier, the six-mile hors category Le Semnoz, and victory will be his.

All that would remain after today's 20th and penultimate challenge is Froome's final triumphant march into Paris tomorrow, champagne in hand, before Mark Cavendish looks to put the seal on a second successive promenade des Anglais with a sixth British stage victory in this 100th Tour.

Or could it be seven? As Froome's rivals came home, bedraggled and curiously becalmed after a day when they threatened to attack him to distraction but ended up seeming to tamely accept their inferiority to the champion elect, it was hard to imagine any of them – not even second-placed Alberto Contador, lying 5min 11sec adrift – mustering the energy and ambition to threaten, even with this stage from Annecy being the fourth consecutive day of endless climbing.

It feels like everyone else is fighting for second place – Contador is only 21sec ahead of Nairo Quintana – and even Froome concedes that, as this was the stage that he was worried about, he can enjoy a sigh of relief.

Rui Costa enjoyed his second triumph of the week, overhauling the suffering Pierre Rolland on the Croix Fry and splashing for home happily in the rain to win by 48sec.

Froome trailed home with the pack 8min 40sec later. No rumbling tummy yesterday following his stalling on L'Alpe d'Huez. For as the British fans watching him warm up at the start in Bourg-d'Oisans reminded him: "Don't forget your lunch today, Chris."

"Yes, just one day more," Froome mused, and you could have sworn he was about to break into Les Miserables. Maybe, that can wait for the Champs-Elysees.

Ireland's Dan Martin, meanwhile, finished 129th and fell to 32nd overall, 55mins 23secs behind the leader.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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