Euphoric Briton Chris Froome vowed to make further headway on the overall list of Tour de France race winners after his coronation as a three-time winner was confirmed in Paris.
The 31-year-old crossed the finish line on the Champs-Elysees shortly behind the peloton, arm-in-arm with his team-mates, to secure victory by four minutes and five seconds over runner-up Romain Bardet of France.
Team Sky’s Froome, the first man from Britain to claim three Tour victories, became only the eighth rider to win the race at least three times, while not since Spain’s Miguel Indurain in 1995 has the title been retained.
With drugs cheat Lance Armstrong’s victories expunged from the record books, French duo Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, Belgium’s Eddy Merckx and Indurain lead the all-time list of winners with five apiece – targets Froome has within his sights.
“It would be my dream to keep coming back to the Tour de France for the next five or six years,” said Froome. “I’ve already won it three times and I wouldn’t say the novelty is wearing off.
“It’s the biggest event we have on the calendar and to be here in the yellow jersey is every cyclist’s dream.
“I’ve definitely grown to appreciate this history of the sport a lot more. Being in the position that I am now, I’m understanding how tough it is to win a race like the Tour de France.
“To win back-to-back editions and now to be a three-time winner is incredible. It’s beyond what I’ve ever dreamed.”
At the start of the 21st and final stage, won by Andre Greipel of Germany, Froome collected bottles of beer from the Team Sky car which were distributed among his eight team-mates. The traditional flute of champagne followed.
Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: “I’m proud to be British. We weren’t a cycling nation a few years ago, but we are now.”
Froome held the yellow jersey from stage eight all the way to Paris yesterday, although his race was not without its trials and tribulations. He was forced to run up Mont Ventoux during stage 12 following a crash, while he utilised a team-mate’s bike on the final climb of stage 19 after falling.
Froome added: “It’s been chaos this year. Every day feels like it has been a different challenge and it really has tested every aspect. [But the win] really could be the first time all over again. I thought because I had been here twice, maybe it wouldn’t be like that again, but all of the emotion just came out again.”
This year’s race was also noteworthy for Lancastrian Adam Yates, who became Britain’s first ever winner of the Tour’s white jersey – since 1975 awarded to the best rider under the age of 26. Yates finished fourth overall behind Colombia’s Nairo Quintana.