Froome dogged by Armstrong comparisons after Tour glory
Spectacular win on slopes of Mont Ventoux leads to more questions for British rider
CHRIS FROOME secured his place in cycling history with an epic stage victory on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, the most iconic climb of the Tour de France, as he became the first-ever Briton to win there and the first man since Eddy Merckx in 1970 to surge to the line while wearing the yellow jersey.
Froome dropped Alberto Contador seven kilometres from the end, and crossed the line one minute and 40 seconds ahead of his rival for the yellow jersey. Froome then broke the resistance of his last remaining challenger on the ascent, Colombian Nairo Quintana, around two kilometres from the summit, and finished 29 seconds ahead of him.
Fittingly Froome's final attack began near the shrine to another British rider, Tom Simpson, who collapsed and died during the race in 1967.
"They can erect another monument for a British hero high on the bare, scorched slopes of Mont Ventoux, but this one will tell not of death but glory," says Matt Dickinson of The Times. "It can tell of the day that Chris Froome ascended among the greats of cycling with what history will record as the single most remarkable ride by a Briton across 100 editions of the Tour de France."
But this is cycling and therefore allegations of wrongdoing are never far from the surface. "Froome will be braced for a fresh barrage of sceptical questions about what propels a performance that destroyed the field and left his main rival, Alberto Contador, floundering on the hillside," notes Dickinson. "The better Froome does - and this was sensational - the harder the accusations come."
Unofficially, Froome's awe-inspiring ascent, which left him in need of oxygen for the first time in his career, has been ranked as one of the three greatest in the 100-year history of the Tour. Unfortunately that has led to comparisons with another famed climber – drugs cheat Lance Armstrong.
"While the numbers continue placing him in the vicinity of the black-hearted Armstrong, the speculation will continue," laments Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail. "This is what cheating does; it spoils it for everyone... In place of awe, a raised eyebrow; acclaim tempered by knowing nudges and defiant inquisitions."
The allegations are starting to grate, says Ian Chadband of the Daily Telegraph. "Froome is remaining the model of patience yet, clearly, [Sky team leader Dave] Brailsford is getting fed up at the insinuations on his behalf." Brailsford told him: "We have a great performance and I jump for joy and ten minutes later I guarantee I will be answering these allegations and questions about doping for the next few days."
But despite the questions, Froome's victory at the end of the hardest climb in France was described as a "knockout blow" by Alasdair Fotheringham in The Independent.
"The only doubt that lingers at this stage in the game is whether Sky, as a team, are up to protecting Froome's lead. However, with an advantage of 4 min 14 sec, and his individual strength in the mountains, it looks increasingly unlikely that he will crack in the final week in the Alps," he adds.