Chris Froome (Team Sky) described the 2017 Tour de France as his “toughest challenge yet” after sealing a fourth overall victory in five years, while Dylan Groenewegen claimed the final stage in Paris.
Froome crossed the Champs-Elysees finish line with team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski, who has barely left the Sky leader’s side through the three-week race.
Groenewegen, meanwhile, saved his first Grand Tour stage win for the biggest stage of all, outsprinting Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Dimension Data).
Having extended his overall lead in Saturday’s time trial, Froome finished the race with a 54-second advantage over Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) – the tightest margin from the 32-year-old’s Tour victories.
And Froome paid tribute to his rivals after a race which hung in the balance until the individual time trial on stage 20.
“This Tour has been my toughest challenge yet,” said Froome. “The performances of my rivals have pushed me harder than ever before, so I want to pay tribute to all the riders for their sportsmanship over the past three weeks. We race hard against each other, we suffer together, but the most special thing is the camaraderie and friendship in the peloton.
“The opportunity to win a fourth Tour de France this year has motivated and inspired me more than ever before. It is an honour to even be mentioned alongside those who form such an important part of the Tour’s history. It is a history I am very proud to be a part of, but every Tour is unique, and every year is a new story to be written.
“I will never forget what it means to wear the maillot jaune, and what an incredible privilege it is to stand here on the Champs Elysees as winner of the Tour de France.”
After a morning flight from Marseille to Paris, the final stage followed a familiar format, with the processional opening kilometres a chance for photographs and a glass of champagne for Froome and his team-mates.
However, with 54km remaining the race began in earnest with a nine rider breakaway going up the road. The escapees were only allowed a slender advantage and the peloton made the catch with approximately 10km remaining.
That prompted a series of counter attacks but the race back came together for the final sprint.
With Marcel Kittel (Quickstep Floors) out of the race, having won five stages of this year’s race, the finale represented a chance for the rest of the peloton’s sprinters to get in on the action.
And Groenewegen needed no second invitation, with the Dutchman launching his sprint early on the final straight and holding off all challengers to seal the biggest victory of his fledgling career.
For Froome, only Eddy Merckx, Jaques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain now stand above him with five Tour de France wins each.
Having previously won the race in 2013, 2015 and 2016, Froome dedicated his 2017 triumph to his family.
Tour de France 2017: stage 21 – result
2) André Greipel (GER) – Lotto Soudal
3) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Dimension Data
4) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis
5) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha-Alpecin
6) Borut Bozic (SLO) – Bahrain-Merida
7) Davide Cimolai (ITA) – FDJ
8) Pierre Luc Perichon (FRA) – Team Fortuneo-Oscaro
9) Rüdiger Selig (GER) – Bora-Hansgrohe
10) Daniele Bennati (ITA) – Movistar
Final general classification
2) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Cannondale-Drapac +54″
3) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +2.20
4) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Team Sky +2.21
5) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +3.05
6) Daniel Martin (IRL) – QuickStep Floors +4.42
7) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-Scott +6.14
8) Louis Meintjes (RSA) – UAE Team Emirates +8.20
9) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Trek-Segafredo +8.49
10) Warren Barguil (FRA) – Team Sunweb +9.25