Froome wins the Tour de France - but little respect
The British rider has won the race four times, but his 'efficient' style fails to win over the fans
Chris Froome confirmed his reputation as one of the greatest cyclists in history by winning the Tour de France for a fourth time on Sunday.
Froome triumphed for the third year in a row, having opened his account in 2013, as he safely crossed the finish line on the Champs Elysees behind stage winner Dylan Groenewegen following a gruelling battle over the past three weeks.
The British rider is now clear of three-time winners Philippe Thys, Louison Bobet and Greg LeMond with only Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain ahead of him on five.
Froome's domination of the famous race will ensure his place in the sport's record books, says William Fotheringham in The Guardian, but the manner in which he achieved it means he is unlikely to receive the credit he deserves.
"He is a champion who has versatility and grit, if not charisma or popularity. As Froome's fourth win loomed large, it was inevitable that at least one French newspaper would describe the Tour winner using Antoine Blondin's sublime pun, 'gérant de la route' – a wordplay on the verb gérer, meaning to manage or regulate, and the hoary French cliche for the Tour riders, les géants de la route. An English translation might be accountancy on wheels."
In contrast to his previous victories, Froome did show moments of vulnerability this year, which his rivals might have been able to take advantage of but for the strength of Team Sky and his trusty lieutenant Mikel Landa in particular.
He was tested by Fabio Aru – who took the yellow jersey off him for one day before handing it straight back – Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran but made sure of victory and with it confirmed his status as the most complete rider across all disciplines in the time trial on the penultimate stage in Marseille.
His Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas – who wore the yellow jersey early in the race before crashing out - says in the Daily Telegraph that Froome's achievements cannot be under-estimated.
"I have said it countless times, but he does not get half the credit he deserves in this country. He is on the cusp of legendary status now. If he joins the five-time club next year, or even goes beyond that and beats the record held by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain, he will have to be regarded as one of the greatest sportsmen this country has ever seen. To my mind he already is."
While the British public are strangely cold to Froome's phenomenal success, compared to the hero-status awarded to the country's first Tour winner Bradley Wiggins, the French are openly hostile towards him.
In previous years Froome has had urine thrown at him by spectators and was once again booed during some of the mountain stages but his latest victory at least brought a kind of grudging respect from Le Figaro.
"Installed behind the legendary Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain, Froome will never have the elegance of the Norman, the versatility of the Belgian, the violence of the Breton or the power of the Spaniard. With his own style, he often gives the impression of pushing a trolley in a supermarket. Elbows spread, upper body straight, head wagging. Without grace but with formidable efficiency."
The ongoing strength of British cycling was confirmed with Simon Yates finishing seventh behind Froome and in doing so emulating the achievement of his twin brother Adam 12 months ago by winning the white jersey for best young rider while Team Sky took the team award.