July 26, 2015 – In the time-trials, Froome had his first major successes, quickly gaining sight, and finished second in the British championships and fifth at the Commonwealth Games in 2010. It was in his next season that he started showing ability as a stage racer, with top 15 finishes in the week-long Tours of Castilla y Leon and Romandie.
At the end of the year he was selected as chief ‘domestique’ for Sky team leader Bradley Wiggins to help his British compatriot in the mountains at the Vuelta a Espana. He ended up finishing second overall behind Juan Jose Cobo and ahead of his team leader in third. That was a seminal moment in Froome’s career.
“It was always a dream for me to be able to ride general classification (GC), I knew I could climb well and time-trial well,” said Froome. For me when I grew up, I wanted to be able to ride GC; I didn’t think it would come so early but when I went to the Vuelta to support Bradley Wiggins, when I had the job to be the last man in the mountains, I thought: ‘I’m doing all the pulling here, there’s a group of only five guys left and I’m feeling OK’. At that point I thought if I can ride GC here, maybe I’m closer to that than I had thought.”
A year later he was again a ‘super-domestique’ to Wiggins and finished second to his countryman at the Tour de France, although he proved to be the strongest in the mountains and many believed he could have won the Tour — just as with the Vuelta the previous year — had he not been obliged to work for his team-mate.
What he had done, however, was show once and for all that he was no longer a ‘domestique’ and deserved the right to lead Sky at Grand Tours — the Tour de France included.
The next year Froome led Sky at the Tours of Oman, Criterium International, Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine, winning all four, in much the same way Wiggins had done 12 months earlier — he won the Dauphine, Romandie and Paris-Nice — in his build-up to Tour success.
At the Tour itself, Froome decimated the opposition with some stunning victories on mountain top finishes and his road to Tour champion was secure, as was his path to suspicion and accusation. Since then, Froome has continued to dominate in stage racing — although he crashed out of the 2014 Tour and was beaten by Alberto Contador at the Vuelta later that year.
But he has continued to win week-long races, including the Dauphine and tours of Romandie, Oman and Andalucia over the last two years, now winning his second ‘Grand Boucle’ to boot. But what this year’s Tour showed once again is that with domination comes damnation and Armstrong’s shadow looms large over Froome even though the Briton has never failed a doping test.
Following Chris Froome’s second Tour de France victory on Sunday, AFP Sport looks at the five key stages where the 30-year-old Briton made a difference:
Stage 2 – Utrecht-Zeeland, 166km
This was a pan-flat stage that on paper looked likely to end in a bunch sprint but, with unpredictable weather and the possibility of crosswinds, danger was lurking everywhere. It rained throughout the stage and sure enough, things happened. The pace was upped at the front of the peloton as crosswinds and rain made the favourites jittery. Crashes started to happen and both reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana got caught out. A split happened in the peloton with Froome among those on the right side of it. By the end, Nibali and Quintana had lost a minute-and-a-half to Froome and Alberto Contador. It would prove decisive.
Stage 4 – Seraing-Cambrai, 223.5km
Froome had already gained time on his rivals on the previous two days in the crosswinds to Zeeland and the steep finish on the Mur de Huy. But it was this cobbled stage that was perhaps more demoralising for his rivals as it suggested the Sky leader had no weaknesses. Froome had not even ridden the cobbles in 2014 as he’d already crashed out of the race, and there was a big question mark over how comfortable he would be. But when he exited the final sector in the wheel of team-mate Geraint Thomas leading the race, his rivals must have wondered where they could possibly gain time on him.
Stage 10 – Tarbes-La Pierre-Saint Martin, 167km
This was the stage more than any other that decided the 2015 Tour. It was the first mountain stage of the race and the first chance for the favorites to really test each other. As it happened, Nibali cracked spectacularly, Contador suffered badly, Quintana couldn’t quite keep up and Froome, attacking with an extraordinary pedal rate, stormed to victory, delivering a crushing blow to all his rivals.
Stage 14 – Rodez-Mende, 178.5km
For the first time in the race, it appeared as if Froome was in trouble. First Quintana and then Nibali attacked on the final 3km, 10.1 percent gradient climb. But Froome showed great maturity in keeping cool, keeping his rhythm going and soon there was only Quintana left ahead and everyone else losing ground behind. By the finish line, Froome had even snatched another second from Quintana and with only the Alps left, the rest were running out of chances to turn things around.
Stage 20 – Modane-Alpe d’Huez, 110.5km
Froome was suffering from a cough and Quintana had snatched back 30sec from the Briton on the previous day’s Alpine summit finish. The Colombian had vowed to attack from further out this time and sure enough his first dig came 60km from the finish on the monstrous Col de la Croix de Fer. Froome managed to respond but when Quintana went again on Alpe d’Huez, the Sky leader was reduced to following the wheels of team-mates Richie Porte and Wouter Poels. Quintana’s lead was inching forward but Froome battled all the way up the iconic climb and by the end, he may have finished 1min 20sec behind Quintana but he still had a 1min 12sec lead over the Colombian and the Tour was his!
Factfile on 2015 Tour de France winner Chris Froome:
Full name: Christopher Froome
Date of birth: May 20, 1985
Place of birth: Nairobi, Kenya
Height: 1m 86cm (6ft 1in)
Weight 67kg (10st 7lb)
Nickname: Froomey, Froome-dog
-Konica Minolta (2007)
-Team Sky (2010-present)
-Grand Tours – Tour de France (2013 and 2015, 2nd in 2012)
-Vuelta a Espana (2nd in 2011 and 2014)
-Tour of Oman (2013, 2014)
-Criterium International (2013)
-Tour de Romandie (2013, 2014, 3rd in 2015)
-Criterium du Dauphine (2013 and 2015)
-Vuelta a Andalucia (2015)
-Tirreno-Adriatico (2nd in 2013)
-British Time-trial Championships (2nd in 2010)
-Olympic Games Time-trial (3rd in 2012)
-World Championships Team Time-trial (3rd in 2013)
-Velo d’Or (2013)
-Velo Magazine International Cyclist of the Year (2013)
Jersey Winners of the 2015 Tour de France
Yellow jersey (overall champion): Chris Froome (GBR) Team Sky
Green jersey (top sprinter): Peter Sagan (SVK) Tinkoff-Saxo
Polkadot jersey (King of the Mountains): Chris Froome (GBR) Team Sky
White jersey (best young rider): Nairo Quintana (COL) Movistar
Yellow helmets (best team): Movistar