Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome can dream of a fifth victory when it gets underway on Saturday after his 'worst nightmare' came to an end when he was cleared of an alleged doping offenceFour-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome can dream of a fifth victory when it gets underway on Saturday after his 'worst nightmare' came to an end when he was cleared of an alleged doping offence (AFP Photo/Jeff PACHOUD)
Paris (AFP) - Briton Chris Froome secured his fourth Tour de France title at the end of the 21st and final stage won by Dylan Groenewegen on Sunday and said it was a huge honour to be amongst cycling's greats.
Sky's Froome had previously won the 2013, 2015 and 2016 editions and sits fifth overall in the all-time list of Tour victors behind five-time winners Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.
"It's a huge honour to be talked about in the same sentence as those guys with their place in the history of the Tour de France," 32-year-old Froome, who will aim to match them next year, told ITV4.
"It is just a privilege to even be in the position to be going for that kind of record.
"Each time I've won the Tour it's so unique and so different and it is such a different battle to get to this moment.
"So they're all special in their own ways and this year I think will be remembered for being the closest and most hard-fought battle between the GC rivals."
At the end of three weeks, 21 stages and more than 3,500km, Froome rolled over the line on the Champs Elysees in Paris with a broad grin alongside his Sky team-mates, who wore a special kit for the occasion with their usual blue stripe replaced by a yellow one.
It was Froome's closest Tour struggle yet as his final winning margin was less than a minute for the first time, Colombia's Rigoberto Uran finishing second at 54sec with Romain Bardet of France, the runner-up last year, third at 2min 20sec.
The 103km final stage began with a nod to history in Montgeron, where the very first stage of the inaugural Tour in 1903 also began, at a leisurely pace giving Froome, his team-mates and the winners of the other distinctive jerseys the chance to celebrate with glasses of champagne as they rode out of the town and towards the French capital.
By the time they got there the tempo had risen to the opposite scale of the spectrum and it was a full pelt bunch that rode to the finish, where 24-year-old Groenewegen struck out for home from a long way out and held off the hard-charging Andre Greipel, winner on the Champs Elysees in the previous two years, with Edvald Boasson Hagen third.
- 'Perfect' -
"This is an amazing place for the sprinters. To win on the Champs-Elysees makes it a perfect day," said Dutchman Groenewegen of the Lotto NL Jumbo team.
"This is my first stage win at the Tour. When I was young, I was looking at the Champs-Elysees stage on TV. Now I'm the winner here, it's wonderful."
It was the biggest victory of Groenewegen's young career but the day undoubtedly belonged to Froome.
"It feels amazing. The Champs Elysees never disappoints, it's something magical," said Froome.
"When you've spent three weeks thinking about being here in this moment, it is so rewarding every time."
Alongside the yellow jersey winner, Australia's Michael Matthews won the sprinters' green points jersey, France's Warren Barguil triumphed in the polkadot king of the mountains competition and Simon Yates of Britain succeeded twin brother Adam as the best young rider in the white jersey.
Froome's Sky finished as the best team having claimed the yellow helmets on the first stage in Dusseldorf three weeks ago and never relinquished their lead in the competition, which they won for the first time despite claiming the yellow jersey in five of the last six years.
The last remaining prize went to Barguil, a winner of two stages, who was named the most combative rider of the Tour.