Tour de France

Only a disaster can deny Chris Froome a third Tour de France crown

British rider comfortably holds onto his overall lead of more than four minutes with the final stage on Sunday little more than a procession to the Champs-Elysees in Paris

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 July, 2016, 12:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 July, 2016, 12:55am

Chris Froome all but wrapped up the Tour de France title as Spaniard Ion Izaguirre won the 20th and penultimate stage on Saturday.

With Sunday’s 21st and final stage little more than a procession to the Champs-Elysees in Paris, only a disaster can deny Froome a third Tour title now.

Tradition dictates that the man in the race leader’s yellow jersey is not challenged during the final stage.

Despite crashing on Friday, Froome comfortably held onto his lead of more than four minutes over Frenchman Romain Bardet on the rainy 146.5km stage from Megeve to Morzine in the Alps.

Nairo Quintana of Colombia, runner-up in 2013 and last year, is third overall, 4:21 off the pace, while another Briton, Adam Yates, is fourth at 4:42 and will don the white jersey for the best under-25 rider in Paris.

“I still need to get the yellow jersey to Paris [today] but the race is done and dusted,” Froome said.

“It’s been a really intense race. ... it was incredible to cross the last finish line with my teammates,” Froome said. “They were with me for the entire Tour.”

Froome hits the deck ... but still retains overall lead in Tour de France

Quintana said: “I finish very happy. Three Tours, three podiums, it’s a lot of joy.

“We came with a more ambitious objective, we tried but this is the greatest race in the world. I must be happy with this third place. I suffered from allergies but I felt better in the last couple of days.

“But Chris Froome was too strong. It’s the third time I lose against him but I’m still happy with our team showing on this Tour and the whole of the season. We showed we were one of the best teams in the world. Now it’s time for Paris and celebrations.”

Izaguirre won the stage after a daring descent to the finish ­having crested the final climb, the Col de Joux Plane, alongside 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali and Colombian Jarlinson Pantano, winner of the 15th stage last ­Sunday.

Pantano almost skidded off the road on the descent while ­Nibali was uncharacteristically tentative following his crash on Friday, allowing Izaguirre to ride clear and take the first stage win for a Spaniard in this Tour.

Behind, the expected – or perhaps merely hoped for – fireworks among the top 10 riders failed to materialise.

Any suggestion that Froome might have been vulnerable after his crash on Friday was dispelled by a show of force from his Sky team that rode on the front of the peloton all day.

As it turned out, even on the final climb, no one dared attack, bar Bauke Mollema and Joaquim Rodriguez, although having ­started the day in 10th and 11th respectively, their efforts were mere squabbling over the minor positions.

Team Sky rider Geraint Thomsaid: “I rode the climb and took it steady on the descent and we had Froome sit behind me. It was fast but no risks at all.”

If Froome secures the title ­today, he will join Belgium’s ­Philippe Thys, American Greg ­LeMond and France’s Louison Bobet on the list of the triple ­winners.

Ahead of them are five-times champions Miguel Indurain of Spain, Belgian great Eddy Merckx, Frenchmen Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters