How Chris Froome won the 2016 Tour de France

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How Chris Froome won the 2016 Tour de France

Explosive descending, surprise attacks, relentless climbing and time trial success lead to yellow jersey

Chris Froome stormed to a third Tour de France title in four years with a superb showcase of his all-round ability.

Froome descended, sprinted, climbed and time trialed to victory in France to further cement his place as the best Grand Tour rider of this generation.

Chris Froome celebrates victory on the podium with his Sky team-mates and support staff (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

Froome’s final overall advantage was more than four minutes to second-placed Romain Bardet, as his rivals simply had no answer to his attacking riding and Team Sky’s control on the front of the peloton.

So where was the yellow jersey won at the 2016 Tour de France? We’ve picked out eight key moments which led to a fourth British triumph in the last five years.

Stage eight – Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon

It’s easy to forget now, two weeks later, but the GC men were inseparable after the first week of racing – a stark contrast to the 2015 Tour de France when the Classics-like stages in the opening seven days obliterated some riders’ GC hopes.

– Tour de France 2016: Froome claims yellow jersey on stage eight with daredevil descent –

Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) carried the yellow jersey into the second Saturday of the Tour, but as stage eight departed Pau only seven seconds separated the next 15 riders in the general classification.

Descending was supposed to be Chris Froome’s weakness, until he attacked his rivals to win stage eight in Bagneres-de-Luchon (pic: Sirotti)

Froome changed all that on a stage featuring both the Col du Tourmalet and Col de Peyresourde, however.

When the peloton approached the summit of the Peyresourde together – Van Avermaet well behind on the stage by that point – it looked as though they were all waiting for battle to commence on the Queen Stage the following day.

But Froome had other ideas, flying clear over the summit and launching into a daredevil descent – banishing any suggestion descending is a weakness of his – to claim the stage win in Bagneres-de-Luchon and open up a small lead overall.

Stage nine – Vielha val d’Aran to Andorra Arcalis

Froome rolled out in yellow for the first time the following day, for a stage set to finish atop Andorra Arcalis – the highest summit finish of the 2016 Tour de France.

– Tour de France 2016: Dumoulin solos to stage nine victory as Froome defends yellow jersey –

But with the steep climbs of the Andorran Pyrenees seemingly perfectly-suited to the likes of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), ending the day in yellow was another matter entirely.

Nairo Quintana was expected to attack Chris Froome in Andorra, but the Team Sky man defended his lead in the heavy rain (pic: Sirotti)

The stage, however, showed the first signs of the Colombian’s weakness as he failed to punish Froome on the 10.1km (at 7.2 per cent) final climb.

In fact, it was Froome setting the pace in the GC group as hailstones and heavy rain battered the mountainside, despite Quintana having team-mate Jesus Herrada for company.

Only Adam Yates and Quintana could keep up with the Team Sky man in the end – on a stage won by the breakaway – as Froome maintained a 16-second lead atop the GC.

Stage 11 – Carcassone to Montpellier

Crosswinds made for a nervous bunch on stage 11 of this year’s race, but Team Sky rallied around Chris Froome to keep their man safe at the front of the bunch as splits began to form.

– Tour de France 2016: Sagan outsprints Froome to win dramatic stage 11 –

It was not without its hairy moments, however, as a strong gust caused a crash and took several Team Sky riders out – Froome taking a comfort break to wait for them to bridge back to the peloton, knowing the peloton would wait for the yellow jersey.

Peter Sagan and Chris Froome foiled the peloton on stage 11 (pic: Sirotti)

That tactic proved paid off and Froome was still near the front as the race appeared to be heading for a sprint finish in Montpellier. Green jersey Peter Sagan had other ideas, however, accelerating with team-mate Maciej Bodnar as the wind picked up again to ignite the stage.

Froome spotted an opportunity and, joined by team-mate Geraint Thomas, bridged over and join the move as Nairo Quintana looked around for his team-mates, watching Froome, Thomas, Sagan and Bodnar disappear into the distance.

The quartet powered clear and Sagan sprinted to victory, with the time bonuses awarded at the finish and a small gap to the peloton seeing Froome extend his advantage as the top of the GC to 28 seconds over Yates, with Quintana another seven seconds back.

Stage 12 – Montpellier to Chalet Reynard (Mont Ventoux)

High winds continued to wreak havoc the following day, forcing the shortening of stage 12 from the summit of Mont Ventoux to Chalet Reynard, six kilometres further down the mountain.

– Tour de France 2016: Froome keeps yellow jersey despite crash on chaotic Ventoux stage –

As a breakaway was allowed to go clear to contest the stage win, Froome was again in great form on the final climb – this time he, Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) distanced the main GC group with a stinging attack.

Froome, Mollema and Porte escaped from the GC group on Mont Ventoux but roadside fans caused a crash which left Froome running up the mountain on foot (pic: Sirotti)

The trio fought through the crowds and looked well set to put significant time into their rivals as Quintana in particular struggled to stay with the other GC men.

And then it all came to a shuddering halt – the TV moto in front of the three was forced to brake suddenly due to the roadside fans, Porte hit the back of it, and Froome and Mollema hit the back of the Australian.

A police bike then hit, and broke, Froome’s Pinarello Dogma F8Xlight and with his team car stuck further down the mountain, the 31-year-old decided to run up the mountain instead.

The neutral service car eventually caught up with Froome, but with the wrong pedals on the yellow Mavic bike, he continued to struggle.

By the time his team car arrived, Froome had lost more than a minute to the GC group but race commissaires intervened, awarding Froome and Porte the same time as Mollema at the finish – the Dutchman having been the only one able to remount immediately after the crash.

That meant Froome not only kept the yellow jersey, but actually extended his lead once again – ending the day 47 seconds clear of Yates and 54 ahead of Quintana.

Stage 13 – Bourg-Saint-Andeol to Le Caverne de Pont d’Arc

As sensible as it was, the decision of the race jury the previous day had been unprecedented and did cause some fans and rider to query it – but Froome put any doubts about his validity to wear the yellow jersey to bed in the individual time trial on stage 13.

– Tour de France 2016: Froome races clear overall after individual time trial –

Dutch champion Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) was in superb form on the 37.5km course to take the stage win, but Froome finished second on the day to put yet more time into his rivals and further show himself as the best all-round rider at the Tour.

Chris Froome finished second in the individual time trial to move clear of his GC rivals (pic: Sirotti)

Froome finished 67 seconds back on Dumoulin – in fact, only five riders were within two minutes of Dumoulin’s time as the general classification was blown apart.

Quintana lost more than two minutes to Froome, as did Porte – despite the Australian’s own time trialling prowess – and that ensured Froome finished the day 1’47” clear of the now second-placed Mollema in the new GC standings.

Stage 17 – Bern to Finhaut-Emosson

Froome successfully defended that lead into the second rest day, but had four mountain stages to negotiate before Paris, leaving it all very much to play for.

– Tour de France 2016: Zakarin wins stage 17 as Froome extends lead –

The first of those mountain stages, with a hors categorie summit finish at Finhaut-Emosson, showed Froome was in no mood to surrender the maillot jaune, however.

Froome and former team-mate Richie Porte attacked on Finhaut-Emosson, leaving Froome with a big overall advantage (pic: Sirotti)

Excellent work by team-mate Wout Poels kept Froome at the forefront of proceedings in the GC group before former team-mate Porte attacked and only Froome could follow the move.

Once again Quintana was left unable to respond to Froome’s acceleration, and the Colombian lost contact with the other GC men, too, while Froome followed Porte’s wheel all the way to the finish line.

Froome’s already commanding lead had been turned into a huge advantage ahead of the mountain time trial – 2’27” to second-placed Mollema, 2’53” to Yates, 3’27” to Quintana in fourth and no other rider within four minutes.

Stage 18 – Sallanches to Megeve

On his way to his first Tour de France title in 2013, Chris Froome won a mountain time trial to cement his standing as race leader.

– Tour de France 2016: Froome wins stage 18 time trial to build commanding lead –

And three years on, the Team Sky man did exactly the same again on the 17km course from Sallanches to Megeve.

Froome was in scintillating form in the uphill time trial, and ended the day leading by nearly four minutes overall (pic: Sirotti)

Froome had been behind the pace of Dumoulin at the first time check but, the only rider to opt for a full time trial set-up for the stage, Froome powered on up the climb to reduce his deficit and then set a new mark at the top of the climb.

He maintained that on the descent into Megeve to win the stage – the only man to break the 31-minute mark on the day – and increase his overall lead significantly.

Mollema, second overall, limited his losses to within 90 seconds, but while the Dutchman ended the day still just one place behind Froome in the overall standings, the gap had now grown to 3’52” as Froome began to close in on the title.

Stage 19 – Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc

While Froome now enjoyed a near-four minute lead at the top of the general classification, cycling can be a cruel mistress and the Tour de France is never over until the Paris finish line.

– Tour de France 2016: Bardet wins stage 19 as Froome keeps yellow jersey despite crash –

Froome was reminded of that on stage 19 as the hot weather present the following day was replaced by heavy rain in the Alps.

Bloodied, bruised and riding team-mate Geraint Thomas’ bike but Chris Froome stayed in yellow after stage 19 (pic: Sirotti)

Mollema paid the biggest price, crashing twice on the super-slick tarmac, before Froome had his own heart-stopping moment as he hit a road marking and slid out on a corner on the fast descent.

Team-mate Geraint Thomas gave the Team Sky man his bike and, having escaped serious injury, Froome was paced back to the front group.

He lost the wheels of the GC group inside the final kilometre but the day actually ended with Froome increasing his overall advantage, owing to the time lost by Mollema.

Yellow jersey? Check. Yellow flowers? Check. Lion? Check. It was familiar territory for Chris Froome in Paris (pic: Sirotti)

Stage winner Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) moved up to second overall, 4’11” down on Froome, and Quintana – now back up to third – was another 16 seconds back.

Any fears Froome might be suffering from that crash were allayed as he successfully defended his yellow jersey the following day on stage 20, with Bardet snatching back just six seconds.

All that left was for Froome to ride into Paris on the final stage and on to the top step of the podium for the third time in just four years.

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