Chris Froome of Sky Procycling team, who, barring accidents, was clearly going to be the winner of the 2013 Tour de France from the very early stages, stepped onto the podium to receive the winner's spoils last night. He was the second Brit in two years to win as he took the yellow jersey at the 100th Tour de France on Sunday July 21th. It was the final stage of the famous race, this last stage a mere 118 kms (74 miles) from Versailles to the heart of Paris.
The day started off with what looked like a stroll in the park with the riders chatting to each other as they cycled away from the magnificent Palace of Louis XIV into the countryside. It's the final stages that are so exciting. Reaching Paris, pretty well bunched up with the major teams at the front supporting their stars, the real business starts. This is a sprint finish, so the riders go 10 times around the same 7 kms (4.3 miles), taking in the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees (and Joan of Arc) each time. They're powering along at 60 (37.5 miles) to 65 kms (40.65 miles) per hour over bone-rattling cobbles barely covered in tarmac. It looks dangerous, and it is. Luckily it wasn't wet, which turns the Champs Elysees into a skating rink, but still the French hero, Arthur Vichot, had the vast misfortune to suffer from not one but two punctures at this stage.
The top riders leave it to the very last few kilometers to make their burst for victory. The previous 2 years' winner, Mark Cavendish, left it just a few seconds too late and despite a desperate effort, finished third, behind Andre Greipel from Belgium, and the winner, Marcel Kittel from Argentina .
Chris Froome was a suitably modest winner with a suitably simple message of thanks to all those in Team Sky Procycling and others who had helped him, and a dig at the critics who still try to imply that the sport is drug-fuelled. He had to answer such questions throughout the race and had got extremely tired of them. As he insisted, the days of Lance Armstrong are behind the sport. It was certainly impossible to equate this baby-faced, delightfully honest young man with doping. As he pointedly finished: "This is one jellow jersey that will stand the test of time".
There were lots of exciting moments at the finish including the sight of the Sky team riding over the finishing line altogether in a row, arms linked, with Chris Froome in the center. Never mind that it wiped 20 seconds off his lead; this was their moment. The race finished in the evening as the sun sank below the horizon and the lights began to come on. Paris looked absolutely magnificent as the organisers had hope it would. In fact the City of Light laid on a great show with a spectacular son-et-lumiere projected onto the Arc de Triomphe.
So the 2013 Tour de France is behind us. Who will be the stars of next year? There is high excitement at the massive achievements of young Nairo Quitano from Colombia who despite his slight frame, powered to the top of the mountains and won the white jersey for best young rider under 25 years (he's only 23 years old), the polka dot jersey for best climber and second place in the whole race.
The green jersey for overall number of points went to Peter Sagan who was suitably green, including sporting a green beard and green hair for the occasion. The most combative red and white jersey went to the Frenchman, Christophe Riblon, and the Team winners were the Danish team of Saxo-Tinkoff.
The final winners at the end of the 3,360 km (2.087 mile) race were:
- Chris Froome (U.K.) Team Sky (U.K.)
- Nairo Quintana (Colombia) from Team Movistar (Spain)
- Joaquin Rodrigues (Spain) from Team Katusha (Russia)
- Alberto Contador (Spain) from Team Saxo-Tinkoff (Denmark)
- Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic) from Team Saxo-Tinkoff (Denmark)
- Bauke Mollena (Netherlands) from Team Belkin Pro Cycling (Netherlands)
- Jakob Fugslang (Kazakhstan) from Team Astana Pro (Kazakhstan)
- Alejandro Valverde (Spain) from Team Movistar (Spain)
- Daniel Navarro (France) from Team Cofidis, Solutions Credits (France)
- Andrew Talansky (U.S.A.) from Team Garmin-Sharp (U.S.A.)
- For general information on the Tour de France 2013, click here
- For the Tour de France website, click here
Images: Top: Sky Procycling rides over the finish line together with Chris Froome at the center; Bottom: Chris Froome shakes hands with Joaquin Rodriguez' two children on the podium. Both images © Bryn Lennon/ Getty Images Sport