Chris Froome rivals Indurain as he wins third Tour de France
British rider is first man to win back-to-back titles since 1995 as he equals Greg Lemond, Louison Bobet and Philippe Thys
Chris Froome won the Tour de France on Sunday and joined a small and elite band of riders who have won cycling's most prestigious race three times. The Briton, victor in 2013 and 2015, crossed the finish line on the Champs-Elysees just behind the peloton and surrounded by his Sky team-mates to clinch a 4min 5sec victory ahead of Tour runner-up Romain Bardet.
The final stage started at its customary slow pace and the racing only began when the peloton arrived for the first of eight laps of a seven kilometre finishing circuit around the Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde. When it came to the sprint finish Germany's Andre Greipel of the Lotto Soudal team was first across the line.
There were no hiccups for Froome during the day, except perhaps from the beer that he sipped as he and his teammates embarked on the 113km stage from Chantilly to the French capital. But while there was never really any doubt that Froome would seal victory in Paris his win was nonetheless a special moment in the life of the 31-year-old. "It could have been the first one all over again," he told reporters. "The same sort of emotions. It hits you how big this feels."
Froome is the first rider to retain the Tour title since the great Miguel Indurain achieved the feat in 1995, and there was more British success with 23-year-old Adam Yates (who finished fourth overall) becoming the first from his country to win the best young rider's white jersey.
But the day belonged to Froome, who joins Greg Lemond, Louison Bobet and Philippe Thys as the only men to have won three Tours. His next target will be the five victories achieved by Indurain, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil. "I'm proud to be British," said Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford. "Chris is a phenomenal, talented guy. It's been the most complete team performance we've ever had."
Once on the podium under the warm Paris sunshine, Froome dedicated the win to his son, Kellan, who was born in December last year, but he then referenced the traumatic terrorist attacks in Nice earlier in the month. "This Tour has obviously taken place against the backdrop of terrible events in Nice and we pay tribute to those who have lost their lives," he said. "These events put sport into perspective but it also shows the value of sport to free society. We all love the Tour because it is unpredictable but we love the Tour more for what stays the same - the passion from fans, the French countryside and the bond created by sport. These things will never change."
And then, having delivered his victor's speech in English, Froome concluded it with seven words in French: "Vive Le Tour et vive la France. "
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 89:04:48
2 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +4:05
3 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +4:21
4 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +4:42
5 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, +5:17
6 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +6:16
7 Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, +6:58
8 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida, same time
9 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step, +7:04
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff, +7:11
Chris Froome within sight of third Tour de France triumph
Thursday saw Chris Froome tighten his iron grip on the 2016 Tour de France with his second stage victory of this year's race, winning the stage 18 time trial by 21 seconds from Belgian Tom Dumoulin.
The Team Sky rider has now extended his lead in the battle for the yellow jersey to three minutes and 52 seconds over Bauke Mollema in second place, pulling out an extra 85 seconds on the Dutchman in the race against the clock.
Britain's Adam Yates finished two seconds faster than Mollema to stay in third place, and he is now just 24 seconds away from making it a historic British one-two on the podium in Paris - although climber Nairo Quintana (a further 21 seconds back) is likely to have something to say about that.
As if the race for the podium wasn't crowded enough, Romain Bardet and Richie Porte both sit withing 25 seconds of the Colombian Quintana ahead of Friday's brutal Alpine stage - with sparks sure to fly in the hunt for the minor placings.
While the chasing pack scrap it out for minor spoils, Froome's third Tour win looks all-but certain. William Fotheringham writing for the Guardian says: "The Kenyan-born Briton has consistently been the strongest of the overall contenders at every key moment, and in this mainly uphill test he timed his effort to perfection and had every right to punch the air in triumph just after he crossed the line."
It is hard to see how anyone can catch him now says, Stuart Clarke of Cycling Weekly. "Waiting until the final climb on the short 146km stage to Mont Blanc on Friday won’t be enough and it might be hard to gain much time on the final stage to Morzine given the descent to the finish line," he argues.
Mark Cavendish quits Tour de France to save Olympic ambition
A day after Tour de France leader Chris Froome said that most of his rivals were too "tired" to launch attacks against him, fellow Briton Mark Cavendish has quit the race, saying that continuing would undermine his chances at the Olympics.
The Manx rider has won four stages but has decided to forego the chance to add to his tally in the final week of the race, which features four tough days in the Alps.
"After the heat and intensity of the previous stages, we analysed my fatigue levels and decided I'm at a point that would have a detrimental effect on my other big goal for the year, the Olympic Games," he said.
He added he was leaving the Tour with "great sadness", but, The Guardian reports, "with a career tally of 30 stage wins and second only to the legendary Eddy Merckx on 34, he has little more to prove between Berne and Paris".
It is thought that by leaving now, the cyclist hopes to appease both his sets of backers, his Dimension Data team and British Cycling.
"In the build-up to this year’s Tour, Cavendish was the subject of a tug of war as he fought to balance Tour de France commitments to his sponsor against his Olympic ambitions with British Cycling," says The Times.
But the decision does not come as a surprise. "Quitting the race before the Alps... had always been the original plan," claims the Daily Telegraph. "In fact, Cavendish might have left sooner had he not been in such scintillating form."
Froome, meanwhile, hopes to cement his lead in the Alps.
"Counterintuitive though it might sound, Froome said that the general state of fatigue within the peloton came down to the fact that there had not been a major summit finish in the first two weeks of the race," says The Guardian.
"The first two weeks were full gas,” said the rider, adding that with fewer steep climbs, the race had been "harder to control".
Chris Froome runs up Mont Ventoux after Tour de France crash
The Tour de France descended in farce on Thursday as race leader Chris Froome was forced to abandon his bike and run up Mont Ventoux on foot after a crash caused by a spectator and a camera motorcycle.
Footage of the bizarre incident swept across social media but once the dust had settled and the race organisers agreed that Froome should not suffer the consequences of a crash that was not his fault.
Froome, Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema all collided with motorbike that had braked suddenly to avoid the huge crowds swarming across the last kilometre of the stage. All three riders fell and although Mollema was able to continue, Porte lost almost a minute and Froome was left without a ride as his bike's frame broke in the crash.
With his rivals closing in on him, his support car way down the mountain and the finish in the distance Froome then took the extraordinary decision to start running.
— Team Sky (@TeamSky) July 14, 2016
The defending champion was overtaken by rivals Adam Yates and Nairo Quintana in the aftermath of the collision and when Froome eventually found a replacement bike that worked, having been given a neutral bike that did not fit his cleats, he crossed the line shaking his head, fearful he had lost his overall lead in the race. Froome finished one minute and 40 seconds behind Trek-Segafredo's Mollema and 44 seconds shy of BMC's Porte.
It was fortunate that one did get through before he reached the line as according to UCI rules a cyclist can only cross the finishing line on foot if he has his bike with him.
"Each time at Mont Ventoux there is a surprise," commented Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford afterwards. "Perhaps next year Chris will do the Paris Marathon."
The rider's team-mate Geraint Thomas declared: "Well he's from Kenya, so he should be good at the running."
But the jokes only came after the shambles at the end of the 12th stage had been sorted out. Initially it appeared Froome had lost the yellow jersey amid the chaos as he staggered up the mountain on foot with other riders passing him.
Team Sky can laugh about the incident in the cold light of day but on Thursday afternoon fury and incomprehension were the overriding emotions.
But race organisers quickly announced that in light of the circumstances of the crash, Porte and Froome would be given the same finishing time Mollema, which was five minutes and five seconds behind stage winner Thomas De Gendt. Consequently stage 12 turned out well for Froome, who has actually extended his a 28-second advantage over Yates to 47 seconds.
Asked by French TV to describe the collision, Froome said: "I was with Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema and all three of us went into the back of the motorbike. I got hit from behind by another motorbike that broke my bicycle. I told myself, 'I don't have a bike and my car is five minutes behind with another bike - it's too far away, I'm going to run a bit'."
On hearing that the race jury had given him the same time as Mollema, Froome said: "I think it's right. Thanks to them and thanks to the Tour de France organisation."
Brailsford agreed with his rider, telling reporters: "I think the jury and everyone on the organisation has played the fair play card. It's right; it's correct."
Nonetheless the incident raises concerns about race security with Porte describing the crash as "crazy". Mollema tweeted a photo of the collision, with the message: "This may NOT happen in the biggest race of the world!! There has been too many accidents with motos last year!"
Tour de France calls off Mont Ventoux climb because of wind
Tour de France leader Chris Froome's hopes of blowing away his rivals on the climb to Mont Ventoux have been dashed after the organisers cut short today's mountain stage because of high winds at the summit.
However, the British rider, who has a history of breaking his rivals on the Tour's iconic climbs, believes the decision to shorten today's 12th stage because of high winds in Provence was correct.
The race was scheduled to finish at the summit of the legendary Mont Ventoux but the stage has fallen victim to the exceptionally bad weather that has ravaged France this summer. Winds of up to 120km/h are expected to sweep across the region and consequently the stage will finish six kilometres down the mountain at Chalet Reynard.
"The riders' safety is paramount," explained Tour director Christian Prudhomme. The ascent is now just under 10km long as opposed to the initial 15.7km, and Froome has hinted that he may now reserve his energy's for Friday's time trial instead of attempting to drop his rivals on the mountain.
The last time the Tour tackled Mont Ventoux, where in 1967 British rider Tommy Simpson collapsed and died on his way to the summit, was in 2013. On that occasion Froome reached the peak first but the British rider said the decision to shorten today's stage was "the right thing to do".
The defending champion, who is currently clad in the Yellow Jersey, continued: "Everyone wants to see a great show but the most important thing for the riders is safety. Of course I was looking forward to doing Ventoux - it's the most iconic climb, the most legendary climb in this year's race. There are gale force winds and it just wouldn't be safe for the riders, so thank you to the organisers for making the decision."
Froome starts today's stage with a 28-second advantage over Briton Adam Yates, his nearest rival, having extended his lead by 12 seconds on a flat but breezy 11th stage.
Asked what the abbreviated 12th stage will mean for the race, Froome replied: "I don't think the ascent to the Ventoux being shortened will change the race much. Climbing to the Chalet Reynard is already very hard and there might be even more wind than today [Wednesday], with even more possibilities for the bunch to split before the climb. The change of finale will only make the racing more intense because it will be shorter. To win even at halfway to the Mont Ventoux remains something special."
Thursday's climb is followed by a 37.5km individual time trial from Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont-d'Arc on Friday, and Froome said that will come into play as the peloton tackles today's gruelling ascent.
"At the back of all our minds, there will be the time trial of the day after," he said. "Anyone going too deep will pay for it later... maybe my rivals will try to take seconds on me on the Ventoux. Everyone has a tactic, but I'll keep the time trial in mind."
Tour de France: Mark Cavendish wins his 29th stage
Mark Cavendish sprinted to a stirring victory in the sixth stage of the Tour de France - and achieved another landmark in his cycling career in the process.
With 29 stage victories, the Dimension Data rider is now second in the race's all-time standings. He stands one ahead of France's Bernard Hinault but five behind Eddy Merckx of Belgium, with his impressive 34 wins, reports the BBC.
"Oh my God, that was terrifying," said Cavendish. "That was like the old days, just wheel surfing.
"There are almost two finish lines and I was a little bit too far back so it was carnage in the final straight. There were guys coming from everywhere."
Cavendish outpaced Germany's Marcel Kittel in a chaotic sprint for the line, with fellow Brit Dan McLay coming home in third and Alexander Kristoff in fourth.
"I was fighting to be on Marcel Kittel's wheel," said Cavendish. "I wasn't sure if they were that organised, but I knew it would be the right thing to go early because it was downhill.
"I went for the line and I had to come again, I did what Marcel has done to me in the last four years and held on."
With the sixth stage from Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montauban producing little in the way of climbs, it was a day for sprinters, so the results had little effect on the Tour's overall standings.
Belgian Greg van Avermaet remains in the yellow jersey, with the BMC rider five minutes and 11 seconds ahead of Julian Alaphilippe of Etixx-Quick-Step and Alejandro Valverde of Movistar a further two seconds behind.
Defending champion Chris Froome is fifth overall, five minutes and 17 seconds behind Van Avermat, but sure to come into his own today when the tour enters the Pyrenees for the first time this year.
Cavendish's stage victory means he now wears the green jersey, taking it from Slovakia's Peter Sagan of the Tinkoff team, and the 31-year-old Manxman lavished praise on his Dimension Data sports directors for rejuvenating his career.
"There’s a reason why I’ve had Rolf [Aldag] around me most of my career," he said. "He sees things that I even don’t. He’s a guy who will listen to me moan and will do his utmost to sort out any problems that I have.
"With Rolf and Roger Hammond, we’ve got the most formidable couple of directors on the course to make decisions. It’s not like I’m just making decisions in the final - we have a plan each day and the race goes pretty much to how those guys say it will, which is testament to them and I’m fortunate to have them on my side.”