Winning three Grand Tours consecutively was already enough to cement Chris Froome’s place in cycling history. The way in which he won this Giro d’Italia, though, adds an extra dimension to the achievement.
The Kenyan-born British rider bounced back from two early crashes to storm into the lead two days from the end with an 80-kilometre solo attack in the three-week race’s toughest stage.
“I think the manner of the victory is the thing that impresses everybody. That’s the thing that will stay in everybody’s mind. This is going to be such a signature victory of his career,” said Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford as Froome wrapped up the title yesterday to become the first British man to win the Giro.
“The manner that he won this race was absolutely incredible. It’s what bike racing is all about – it’s exciting, it’s spectacular,” Brailsford added. “I’m sure it will define his career over time.”
For a rider who had hitherto been known for his calculating, mechanical style, the attack up a gravel road so far from the finish on Stage 19 was “crazy,” as he himself described it. “It just felt so raw,” Froome said. “This is for me what bike racing is about.”
Froome has now won the Tour de France, Spanish Vuelta and Giro in succession, becoming only the third cyclist to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time and the first to achieve the feat since the Vuelta was moved to the end of the season in 1995. Eddy Merckx won four straight between 1972 and 1973 and Bernard Hinault took three in a row in 1982 and 1983.
“This was always going to be the biggest challenge of my career,” Froome said, alluding to the “unpredictable” nature of the Giro. “But now I’ve done the triple and there’s no greater award for a professional cyclist.”
Froome, the four-time Tour de France champion, had no trouble in maintaining his 46-second lead over defending champion Tom Dumoulin in the mostly ceremonial final stage through historic Rome. He rode a special pink-coloured bike for the final stage, while his Team Sky teammates had pink handlebars.
Afterward, Froome announced that his wife is pregnant and due in August. He dedicated the victory to his daughter-to-be.
Froome arrived at the Giro with big hopes but was not a threat early on after crashing in training before the opening time trial, losing time in a split on stage four, and injuring himself again in a second crash four days later.
But he started to climb back up the standings by winning Stage 14 up Monte Zoncolan – one of the toughest climbs in Europe – then erased more than a three-minute deficit and claimed the pink jersey with his attack on the Colle delle Finestre.
Froome is racing under the cloud of a potential ban after a urine sample he provided at the Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug Salbutamol that was twice the permitted level. It remains unclear when the International Cycling Union will rule on the case.
“I had every right to be here and, as I’ve said before, I know I’ve done nothing wrong,” Froome said.
It was Froome’s sixth Grand Tour win overall and he becomes the seventh rider to win all three Grand Tours over their careers.
Irish rider Sam Bennett, pictured, won the final stage, a 115km leg of ten laps around a circuit over the capital’s cobblestones, in a mass sprint alongside the Roman Forum. It was Bennett’s third victory in this year’s race.
Up next for Froome: an attempt at a record-tying fifth Tour title in July.
“That’s my next objective,” he said.