The realisation that he was on the point of winning the 100th Tour de France hit Chris Froome in the final two kilometres of the final mountain of the race, as he watched the Colombian, Nairo Quintana, dance away to take the win.
“I would’ve loved to have ridden away and won the stage but I didn’t have the legs in the last 2km,” said Froome. “I had this overwhelming feeling of, I’ve done this, I’m in yellow, this is the last day for GC [general classification]. It was a very emotional feeling, the realisation of what I’ve achieved here.”
He added: “This represents the end of the journey, and it’s difficult for me to put into words. It has been an amazing journey. The race has been a fight every day, with something different: Crosswinds; rain; mountains; good days in the mountains and bad days. The team has come under pressure. We have had everything thrown at us. But it’s only fitting for the 100th edition; it really has been a special race.”
Froome admitted that the doping suspicion that has formed a backdrop to this Tour, and been a theme of his press conferences, had been difficult, but inevitable given it was the first Tour since Lance Armstrong was charged with doping and stripped of his seven titles. “It’s definitely been a challenge, but it’s 100 per cent understandable,” said Froome.
“I think whoever was going to be in this position, wearing the yellow jersey was going to come under the same amount of scrutiny and suspicion by journalists and fans.
“I’m also one of these guys who has been let down by the sport. I want to try and change things but it’s going to take a lot more time. But we’re willing to do whatever it takes to show the sport has turned around. It hasn’t taken away from the happiness,” Froome added. “It’s made it more challenging but, if anything, it gives us more of a reason to celebrate. I feel it’s another obstacle we have overcome.”
Unlike Bradley Wiggins, who did not come back to defend his title, Froome said he would be back in 2014 and for a few years to come. Ominously for his rivals, he thinks he still has room for improvement. “I’m 28 now,” he said, “and I think most cyclists come into their prime in their early thirties. I’d like to come back and contend for the Tour de France as long as I can and as long as I have the motivation. I certainly feel I was quite late getting into the sport. This is only my sixth year, and each year I’ve learnt so much. I just refuse to accept that I don’t still have improvements to make, in every aspect.”