Tour de France: Chris Froome starts race with a fall but ends it hinting at domination
Briton's convincing overall victory could be the first of many
By Matt Westby on Semnoz
Last Updated: 22/07/13 8:38am
Three weeks on, no one is sniggering now. That innocuous incident in the neutralised zone on stage one way back in Corsica remains Chris Froome's only blemish in a race in which he has otherwise exerted total supremacy.
He still has to ride into Paris on Sunday without crashing to collect a maiden yellow jersey, but given that he has been the master of every aspect of this most epic of Tours, that seems a certainty.
Froome has been magnificent in the mountains, most famously on Mont Ventoux, where he delivered a performance that will surely go down as one of the finest days in British cycling history.
He flourished wonderfully in the time trials, combining technique with power, poise and shrewd tactics to claim one stage win, one second place and gain vital time on his rivals.
And he has defended manfully when the need arose, not least on stage nine, when he had to survive 125km without any team-mates but still fended off the circling sharks from Saxo-Tinkoff and Movistar.
Just as much as his triumphs on Ax 3 Domaines and Ventoux, that was the day when the Tour was won, when the door was slammed firmly shut on any hopes Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and the rest might have had.
Granted, there was the food incident on stage 18, which was nothing short of bizarre. If you want to see cyclists "bonking", head over to your nearest big hill and watch the amateurs. Don't go to Alpe d'Huez and seek out the maillot jaune.
But such has been Froome's all-round excellence, the 20-second penalty he incurred for illegally taking an energy gel on that gruelling day was wholly inconsequential. He could have been penalised ten times over and it would not have mattered.
The doping allegations have also soured the experience a touch, "saddening" Froome after his Ventoux heroics and luring out a darker, angrier side to a character who had previously only ever revealed calm and composure.
Doubt comes with the territory, though. The yellow jersey these days may as well carry a huge question mark on the back and whoever wears it, let alone wins a stage in it, should know they are going to come in for scrutiny.
But in time, Froome won't care. After all, he has become only the second Briton in history to win the Tour de France.
The Froome era?
Twelve months on from Sir Bradley Wiggins's breakthrough triumph, the English are heading back to Paris and they will be dancing in the streets again. Keep the Champs-Elysees closed and cordon off the Arc de Triomphe.
It is difficult to envisage Froome standing on a car in trendy sunglasses and raising a laugh by "announcing the raffle winners" in his victory speech, but it should be no less a grand and worthy occasion.
Whereas Wiggins's win was born out of teamwork and indestructible tactics, the coronation of Froome will be a homage to individual brilliance; to hard training, steely determination and mastering all aspects of a sport.
It could also represent the start of a new era in road cycling. Giro d'Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali aside, Froome has comfortably outridden and outclassed the best cyclists of the current generation and with seemingly nothing now barring his path, a period of domination to match those of Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain could well be dawning.
Froome hinted a spree of Tour victories was in his mind in the build-up to the race and while young riders such as Nairo Quintana, Michal Kwiatkowski and Tejay van Garderen blossom at a rapid rate, it is difficult to see anyone stopping him soon.
But that is a debate for another day, another year.
For now, to Paris.