CYCLING: Froome honoured at place in Tour de France history books

Team Sky's Chris Froome (centre) celebrates victory on the podium next to second place Cannondale's Rigoberto Uran (left) and third place AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet (right). Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire.
Team Sky's Chris Froome (centre) celebrates victory on the podium next to second place Cannondale's Rigoberto Uran (left) and third place AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet (right). Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Chris Froome said it was an honour to be associated with some of cycling’s all-time greats after claiming his fourth Tour de France title in Paris.

Froome’s triumph took him within one win of matching the record for Tour titles held by four men, including Eddie Merckx and Miguel Indurain.

Froome said: “It’s a huge honour to be talked about in the same sentence as those guys with their place in the history of the Tour de France.

“It is just a privilege to even be in the position to be going for that kind of record.”

Froome resisted the temptation to call his 2017 success the best of his career, but did admit they had not come much tougher.

“Each time I’ve won the Tour it’s so unique and so different and it’s such a different battle to get to this moment. So they’re all special in their own ways and this year, I think, will be remembered for being the closest and most hard-fought battle between the GC rivals.

“It feels amazing. The Champs Elysees never disappoints, it’s something magical. When you’ve spent three weeks thinking about being here in this moment, it is so rewarding every time.”

Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford said he had no doubts that Froome could go on to add to his four Tour titles.

“I think he can go on - there’s no reason to think that he can’t,” he explained.

“Physically he’s got what it takes, then it’s a question of hunger and mentality and the Chris I’ve seen here has been working harder than ever.

“He’s getting better tactically and technically, so as long as that hunger continues I think he’ll be a force in this race for a number of years to come.”

Brailsford shrugged off questions about the negative response Froome has received in some quarters in France, insisting: “I don’t think it’s a popularity contest.

“You’ve got to look at the sporting achievement and Chris is right up there with the greats now. That’s what he’ll be looking at and I’m sure he’ll be thinking about the respect amongst his peers in terms of what he’s achieved and how he’s achieved it.”

Froome was able to enjoy the celebrations on the 103-kilometres stage from Montgeron to the Champs-Elysees before LottoNL-Jumbo’s Groenewegen won in a sprint from Lotto-Soudal’s Andre Greipel.

Groenewegen had time to ease off as the hard-charging Greipel left it too late, while stage 19 winner Edvald Boasson Hagen finished third.

Froome had effectively wrapped up his third straight Tour crown by extending his lead in Saturday’s time trial in Marseille.

But while the first half of the final stage to the capital is a time for celebration, the sprint on the Champs-Elysees is arguably the most prestigious setting for any sprinter to win.

No better place then for Groenewegen to record his first career Tour stage victory.

For Greipel, second place spelled the end of a proud record - the 35-year-old had until now won at least one stage in every grand tour he took part in.

Norwegian Boasson Hagen took the last spot on the podium for the third time in this Tour, with the Team Dimension Data rider also having two second places to add to Friday’s win.

Froome’s final margin of victory over former team-mate, Rigoberto Uran, was 54 seconds making this the seventh-closest finish in Tour history.

And waiting for the Team Sky rider at the finish line were his wife Michelle and young son Kellan.