Froome one stage away from Tour de France title
Emotions took over for Chris Froome as he rode the final few kilometres of the penultimate stage of the Tour De France stage today.
He has now all-but secured victory in the 100th Tour de France after coming through today's stage 20 to Annecy-Semnoz with a lead of more than five minutes.
It briefly appeared that Froome might go for what would have been a fourth stage win of the Tour but when he kicked out against Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez a little over a kilometre from the summit, it prove a short-lived move and instead it was Quintana who won from Rodriguez by 17 seconds, with Froome 29 seconds back.
Froome admitted afterwards that he could barely concentrate during that final stretch, such were his emotions with victory in sight.
"I can't quite believe I'm sitting here in this position," he said.
"This really is amazing. I'm a bit lost for words. We still have to roll into Paris tomorrow but this is it, this is the general classification side of it pretty much sorted out and to finish it off like this is really special.
"It was quite hard to stay on top of it once I got to about 3km to go and it sunk in that this is it, I've accomplished what I needed to.
"I was just following the wheels and just overwhelmed by the feeling of 'okay this is it now, I'm safe and I've got pretty much to the finish'."
With only tomorrow's processional stage into Paris to go, Froome will be the second British winner in as many years following on from Team Sky team-mate Sir Bradley Wiggins, who was the first in history 12 months ago.
The 28-year-old has led the race since winning stage eight to Ax 3 Domaines, and finished with a final margin of five minutes three seconds over second-placed Quintana, who crowned a brilliant Tour debut with today's stage win.
The final placings saw Quintana claim second place overall, while Rodriguez also snatched a podium place with Alberto Contador - second at the start of the day - distanced on the final climb.
Jens Voigt, the German known for his attacking style and likely riding in his final Tour, had been in the early break and led by more than a minute and a half going into the final hors categorie climb to Annecy-Semnoz.
But his 41-year-old legs could give no more and he was caught with 8.5 kilometres to go to the finish as Richie Porte led Froome past with Quintana in close contact.
That was the cue for Quintana and Rodriguez to attack, but Froome responded with a huge kick and raced past them, still more than eight kilometres from the summit.
With Porte dropping back, Froome was all alone at the front, Rodriguez and Quintana trying to hang with him on this challenging finale to the general classification fight.
With Contador struggling to keep up behind, Quintana and Rodriguez could sniff podium places and began to work with Froome to up the pace.
The three stuck together until the flamme rouge, one kilometre from the summit, came into view.
Froome roared past the other two, but the acceleration was momentary, and just as quickly Quintana hit back to ride away for victory.
With time in hand, Froome let him go, and Rodriguez also pulled clear to finish 17 seconds behind Quintana and claim third on the podium.
Contador eventually crossed the line dripping in sweat more than two minutes back, losing so much time he was now one minute and 23 seconds off the podium places.
The result also saw the 23-year-old Quintana claim the King of the Mountains' polka-dot jersey to go with the young rider's white jersey he has been wearing for several days now.
Quintana took the KOM category by 11 points from Froome, who just missed out on being the first man since Eddy Merckx in 1970 to win both the yellow and polka-dot jerseys on the same Tour.
Froome tastes Tour de France glory a year on from standing in second place on the podium alongside Wiggins.
He has been the dominant rider almost throughout this Tour, wearing the yellow jersey for two weeks and dealing with almost every challenge thrown his way on one of the toughest parcours in decades.
For Quintana, this first Tour stage win should be a taste of things to come for the most exciting young rider in the peloton, who began the Tour in a supporting role to Alejandro Valverde but shone in the second half after his team leader dropped out of contention.
- Sign up here to receive news by email. Once per day, no spam.