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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Froome underlines dominance with fourth Tour de France title

Team Sky rider and yellow jersey Chris Froome of Britain on the finish line. Photo: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
Team Sky rider and yellow jersey Chris Froome of Britain on the finish line. Photo: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Chris Froome warned this year's Tour de France would be his toughest yet, and as he celebrates victory in Paris he has been proven right.

But while Froome's final margin of victory of 54 seconds will be his smallest yet, this is the Tour that underlines his complete dominance over the current peloton.

After yesterday's traditional parade to the finish on the Champs-Elysees, Froome celebrated his fourth Tour title and third in a row, leaving him one shy of the record jointly held by four all-time cycling greats - Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain.

Froome has won on a route which seemed custom-designed to curtail his strengths, with only three summit finishes and barely more than 35 kilometres of time trialling.

If it was designed to keep the race close, it did the job perfectly.

If it was designed to undercut Froome's stranglehold, it did not.

"I'm speechless, it is an amazing feeling," Froome said. "There is something magical about the Champs-Elysees when you have spent three weeks thinking about being here in this moment.

"It is amazing to see my wife and son again - it feels like more than a month on the road. Each time I have won has been so unique, such a different battle to get to this moment. They are all so special but this will be remembered as the closest and most hard-fought battle.

"A celebration is definitely overdue."

Ireland's Dan Martin enjoyed a best-ever sixth place finish, the Quick-Step rider finishing four minutes and 42 seconds behind Froome

Martin's cousin, Nicolas Roche finished in 32nd position, an hour and 32 minutes behind the winner.

Tours are usually decided by minutes, not seconds, but going into the time trial on Saturday, Froome had never trailed by more than 12 seconds and never led by more than 27.

Compare that to 2013 and 2016, when his final margin of victory was over four minutes on each occasion. In 2015, he won by 72 seconds from Nairo Quintana, who took 80 seconds out of an ill Froome on the penultimate day but could still not overhaul him.

Such a close race has called for an entirely different approach from Froome.

"He's used his experience an awful lot," Brailsford said. "I think you've seen a really calm, knowledgeable guy who's got so many miles in the yellow jersey now. That's all come in to play in this Tour.

"He's not panicked, but on the flip side he's had to concentrate right through all day every day and that is tough."

Froome has kept his cool against the backdrop of questions surrounding Team Sky - still the subject of an ongoing UK Anti-Doping investigation into allegations of wrongdoing they deny.

This might not have been the Froome of old, striking out on mountain top finishes to bury his rivals. This Tour required a different approach, but it was not without a hugely impressive climbing display from Froome.

On stage 15, a broken spoke threatened to derail his entire Tour, but after a quick wheel change from Michal Kwiatkowski, Froome paced his way back to the pack on the steep inclines of the Col de Peyra Taillade and saved his jersey.

That none of his rivals could attack at the moment Froome made it back spoke to the toughness of the climb, and the strength of Froome's recovery.

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