Chris Froome wins fourth Tour de France after Paris coronation

Team Sky cyclist tops overall standings 54 seconds ahead of Rigoberto Urán

Chris Froome, with his fourth Tour de France in the bag thanks to one of the strongest final weeks he can remember putting in, is now likely to move on to the Tour of Spain, depending on his form.

“I’ll have to see how I recover from this and how I back up in training going into the Vuelta,” Froome said after his Paris coronation on Sunday. “It’s always been the plan to go on and do the Vuelta but I’ll have to see how I shape up over the next 10 days and when I get back into training.”

In the longer term Froome expects to continue riding for the next five years, although he is not sure how long his Tour-winning sequence will last. “I’d still like to keep racing into my late 30s and keep competing for the yellow jersey. This year was the closest it’s ever been for me and it’s only going to be harder next year. I’m definitely getting older.

Froome remains adamant that the ongoing issues around Team Sky – principally the Ukad inquiry into allegations of possible wrongdoing at the team, which are denied by the squad – should have no bearing on his fourth victory, that in no sense should they detract from it. “No. They don’t concern me,” he said. “It’s really something that really doesn’t concern me and I’m not going to waste energy getting myself caught up in it when it doesn’t involve me.”


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


The French capital was in lockdown on Sunday, with extra rings of security around the Champs Élysées, which had been turned into a vast sterile zone as a foretaste of what awaits the French capital when the Olympics arrive in either 2024 or 2028.

In an understandable attempt to put Paris on display as never before, the race was routed through the Grand Palais with the riders racing under the famous glass roof, originally erected in 1897 for the universal exposition of the turn of the century.

For Froome it was but a novel diversion en route to confirmation of his fourth Tour de France victory. The Team Sky rider crossed the line in the bunch behind the stage winner, Dylan Groenewegen, to win the yellow jersey by 54 seconds from Rigoberto Urán.

Bike races have been sent through buildings before – there is a legendary kermis in Belgium which went through a bar full of drinkers and cyclo-cross races are sometimes sent through beer tents – but this was about more than merely upping the returns in adjacent brasseries. Coming as it did the day after the start and finish in Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome – albeit far from full due to the fact that few ticket-holders wanted to stay in the stands all day – the Grand Palais detour was further evidence that the Tour is constantly looking for new ways to reinvent itself, and a reminder that it increasingly sees itself as a way of showing this multifaceted country to the world.

Lockdown could serve as a metaphor for the Tour as a whole, given the way the overall battle had panned out since the race left Dusseldorf 22 days ago. In four of the five previous Tours, Team Sky had brought their cycling version of catenaccio to bear on the race, but they had never done so to the extent they managed this year, with the yellow jersey only eluding them for two days once Geraint Thomas had won the opening time trial. For kilometre after kilometre the white train ground out the pace on the front, up hill and down dale, at times lining out the entire race when on paper it was not strictly necessary.

As Froome's fourth win loomed large, it was inevitable that at least one French newspaper – Le Figaro, as it turned out – would describe the Tour winner using Antoine Blondin's sublime pun, "gérant de la route" - a wordplay on the verb gérer, meaning to manage or regulate, and the hoary French cliche for the Tour riders, les géants de la route. An English translation might be accountancy on wheels. Or to paraphrase Geoff Nicholson, hoarding seconds like supermarket discount coupons.

Froome himself said that this was his and Team Sky’s chosen approach. “We knew in Dusseldorf that it would be tight. It was always the tactic to ride this as a three-week race, not to go out on one day to blow it up, smash it for the stage win . . . just chipping away every stage to make sure there were no massive losses. That’s normal when on a bad day in the mountains you can lose minutes. It’s been about doing it in the most conservative and efficient manner. That’s what Grand Tour racing is.”

Compare and contrast with Dan Martin, who treats the key days like individual one-day classics, but – before you veer too strongly towards espousing Martin's philosophy – bear in mind who actually won.

Lack of panache

Fourth Tour wins are the penultimate step to cycling greatness, but often do little to warm the soul at the time. This could certainly be said of the three that I can personally recall: Lance Armstrong in 2002 (with the usual proviso that it has been struck off), Miguel Indurain in 1994 and Bernard Hinault in 1982. They seem to be ones for the record books rather than the heart, but they can be turned by an individual's approach. Hinault, in 1982, faced the same issue that confronted Froome as he approached Paris yesterday: a Tour without a stage win, and the consequent carps about a lack of panache.

The Badger’s response was to win the bunch sprint on the Champs Élysées, but this is not one from the Froome copybook. Having said that, Froome’s great strength over his four victories is his ability to adapt to whatever the Tour organisers present to him, and whatever fate decrees – 2013 had a wealth of time trialling and an immensely tough finale in the Alps; in 2015 there were cobbles and a team time trial but barely any individual time trials, while in 2016 there was more time trialling and a downhill finale into Morzine, in teeming rain, not to mention the run up Mont Ventoux.

He is a champion who has versatility and grit, if not charisma or popularity. His approach to the latter is summed up by his answer to the question of why he felt he did not need to give press conferences on the rest days. “Rest days are meant to be rest days and a big press conference is not good for recovery. I felt it helped me being able to switch off.”

If Froome chooses to pursue a “marginal gain” by hiding from a 15-minute discussion with the people whose job it is to present his personality to the world, he can hardly complain if his personality is not understood or appreciated for what it is. This is the Team Sky approach of winning at all costs; in this case the cost has to be borne by him.

For the neutral there was much unbridled bike racing by individuals of character and panache to be savoured through the 2017 Tour, with the unfortunate proviso that very little of it actually involved the battle for the overall title. Some days will live in the memory: the moyenne montagne stage to Les Rousses won by Lilian Calmejane, Steve Cummings's attempt to take the stage to Peyragudes, Sunweb's battle with Quick-Step on the road to Romans-sur-Isère on behalf of their sprinters Mike Matthews and Marcel Kittel, Alberto Contador's raging against the dying of the light en route to Foix and Serre-Chevalier, and Edvald Boasson Hagen's cunning on Friday at Two stages can be seen as key episodes in the picaresque three-week soap opera: the Düsseldorf time trial, because of the time gained by Froome, and the message it sent about the probable outcome in Marseille three weeks later, and Chambéry, with the crash that eliminated Richie Porte – whose BMC team looked second strongest to Sky – and which put Daniel Martin physically and temporally on the back foot for the rest of the race.

What of the opposition? They fell upon a Froome who was probably not as strong as in the past, but who had the nous, the sangfroid and the team to get him cycling's greatest prize. "At the moment we're not ready to beat Chris Froome. Most teams aren't," said Orica-Scott's director sportive Matt White, who placed a Yates brother in the top 10 and the white jersey of best under-25 for the second year running.

"We'll be coming back with a leader next year to try to beat Chris. Everyone is beatable. The model that Sky run and how they race makes it difficult. I've no idea what it's a sign of but this year in general we haven't seen him at the level of the past. That level was still good enough to win the Tour de France, and that shows the class of the man." – (Guardian service)