Chris Froome was the right Tour de France winner thanks to consistency
Last Updated: 02/10/15 11:40am
After three weeks of varied and action-packed racing, there is no doubt that the best man won the Tour de France.
Chris Froome may well have struggled in the final two mountain stages and I accept the argument that if Nairo Quintana had not lost one and a half minutes in crosswinds on stage two, it could well have been the Colombian national anthem ringing out on the Champs-Elysees this evening rather than the British.
But it cannot be overlooked that the Tour is not just a climbing race. It is a test of every attribute of a rider and his team, and whether it was in the mountains or on the flat, cobbles or crosswinds, time trials or descents, Froome proved himself to the best all-rounder in the race.
They were the keys to his victory: versatility and consistency. He flourished in that hazardous first week, bossed the Pyrenees and even when he was almost on his knees on stage 19 and 20’s summit finishes in the Alps, he still managed to maintain a high level of performance to finish third and fifth respectively. It was an impressively rounded performance.
Quintana, on the other hand, had too many quiet days and spurned too many opportunities.
I said before the Tour that if he was three minutes down going into the first mountain stage in the Pyrenees, he would be in a good position and still in with a chance of winning.
He was even better placed than that – two minutes down – but he simply wasn’t aggressive enough in the Pyrenees and allowed Froome to put another minute into him.
Then, when the race got to the Alps, he waited two stages before starting to throw the kitchen sink at Froome, when really he should have been hitting him with everything he had for all four days.
I can’t help but feel that in the weeks to come, he will look back on this Tour and rue the fact that on a course with so little time-trialling and so much climbing, he has missed a big chance.
That said, his performance was still impressive and gives us a lot of reason to look forward to next year’s race.
At this stage, it’s impossible to say who out of Froome or Quintana will be favourite until we know the course.
If it is like this year, then Quintana – a year older and wiser – might just be the better prospect, but if the race organisers decide to bring a long time trial back, particularly at the end of the race, then the smart money will be on Froome.
I’m already really excited about the route announcement later this year and am sure the riders are too.
Before then, we have got the Vuelta a Espana to look forward to and it will be interesting to see if Froome, Quintana and even Vincenzo Nibali decide to race it.
Froome is apparently going to make a decision in the next week or so, but given how tired he looked on Alpe d’Huez, he may decide against it.
Quintana and Nibali both seemed to get stronger as the Tour went on and heading to the Vuelta would consequently be logical for them, but then I don’t know what their teams have in mind.
Movistar may want Alejandro Valverde to lead at the Vuelta and Astana may put their weight behind Fabio Aru.
Team Sky don’t really have a second option, so I guess the choice is Froome’s to make. He has a month to recover from the Tour and if he feels up to the task, there is no reason why he shouldn’t go to the Vuelta.
He has finished twice there before so he knows he can do well, but he also knows the mountain stages are savage and will ruthlessly expose tired legs.
Whatever his decision, Froome v Quintana is a rivalry that is still only just getting started.