THE MENTAL fortitude and focus showcased by Britain’s Chris Froome throughout a turbulent and traumatic Tour de France makes him a “true champion”, according to Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford.
Froome, a winner in 2013, made history yesterday by becoming the first Briton to win the Tour twice after safely navigating the largely processional, if rain-affected, 21st and concluding stage to finish alongside team-mates on the Champs-Elysees.
But if the final act of victory was largely hassle free, that has been the exception rather than norm of the three-week race. The 30-year-old has consistently been forced to repel accusations of doping, and has received abuse from some Tour spectators.
Only last week Team Sky felt compelled to release performance data relating to Froome’s dominant victory surge on stage 10, after his power output was described as “abnormally high” by a commentator on host broadcaster France 2.
“Fair play to Chris. The way he has dealt with everything on and off the bike – there are not many people who have got the mettle that he has and the composure under pressure. He really is a true champion,” said Brailsford.
“It has been disrespectful, to come under the criticism, and for people to say the things they have said about him with no foundation.
“They should go and spend their time sitting at the side of Loch Ness and wait for a monster. It’s the same thing. We have still got people camping outside with binoculars, saying ‘I’m sure we are going to see the monster tomorrow’, but it never appears.
“You can’t prove him negative, but there is a weight of evidence to show that we are doing it the right way, we are a clean team and Chris Froome is just a fantastic champion.”
Lotto Soudal rider Andre Greipel won the 21st stage ahead of Europcar’s Bryan Coquard and Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff, while sprint specialist Mark Cavendish was sixth. Froome finished arm-in-arm with fellow Team Sky competitors shortly behind the peloton.
The final standings show that Nairobi-born Froome beat Colombia’s Nairo Quintana to the yellow jersey by a 72-second margin as Spain’s Alejandro Valverde came third, five minutes and 25 seconds back. Welshman Geraint Thomas finished in 15th place.
“It’s such a good feeling to be back here again. The guys deserve it. It’s the very least we deserve after what we have been through these last three weeks,” said Froome.
“The maillot jaune is special. I understand its history, good and bad. I will always respect it, never dishonour it, and I will always be proud to have won it.”