Chris Froome wins third Tour de France crown as Andre Greipel takes final stage in Paris
Britain's Chris Froome was crowned winner of the Tour de France for the third time as Germany’s Andre Greipel won the final stage ahead of Slovakia’s Peter Sagan in a thrilling sprint finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, writes Felix Lowe.
Froome crossed the line arm-in-arm with his entire Team Sky squad on the famous cobbles of the Champs Elysees to secure his third Tour in four years after coming through the 21st and final stage unscathed.
The 31-year-old Kenyan-born Brit becomes the sixth man in history to win the Tour on three occasions and is also the first man since Spaniard Miguel Indurain in 1995 to win back-to-back Tours.
The final 113-kilometre stage from Chantilly to Paris – concluding with eight laps in the City of Lights – was won by Lotto Soudal’s Greipel, who kept up his run of winning at least one stage in every Grand Tour he has ridden since 2007.
Greipel, the German national champion, powered past Norway’s Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and held off a late surge by Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) to win his first stage of the race at the last possible moment.
After three gruelling weeks in France – with visits to Spain, Andorra and Switzerland – Froome proved the strongest of the 198-strong field, securing the famous maillot jaune by a gap of more than four minutes over Frenchman Romain Bardet of Ag2R-La Mondiale.
Having risen from fifth to second after expertly soloing to victory in stage 19 at Saint-Gervais-les-Bains – the day Froome crashed heavily on a slippery descent – Bardet became the second Frenchman to finish runner-up in the Tour in three years following team-mate Jean-Christophe Peraud’s podium finish behind Vincenzo Nibali in 2014.
Froome’s winning margin over Bardet dropped a few seconds to 4:05 after the Briton slowed on the home straight to savour his victory – having earlier shared a bottle of beer with his eight Sky team-mates during the neutral section of the stage.
Colombia’s Nairo Quintana – twice runner-up to Froome in 2013 and 2015 – completed the podium after rising to third place in the Alps despite never showing the kind of form that saw many tip the 26-year-old Movistar rider to end Froome’s reign at the top.
Quintana trailed Froome by 4:21 in the final standings with another Briton, Adam Yates of Orica-BikeExchange, finishing fourth 21 seconds further back after dropping from the podium in the penultimate Alpine stage of the race. The 23-year-old won the white jersey as best young rider after his best Grand Tour to date.
Australian Richie Porte, who joined the BMC team after helping Froome to his first two Tour victories at Team Sky, completed the top five in what was the 31-year-old’s highest finish in a Grand Tour.
Recovering from the setback of seeing their star man Alberto Contador, the double Tour champion, withdraw in the opening week, the Tinkoff team celebrated winning two of the other classifications through Polish climber Rafal Majka and Slovakian sensation Peter Sagan.
Sagan, the world champion, won three stages en route to securing the fifth consecutive green jersey of his career – and did so with a record points haul of 470 points, more than double the tally of his nearest rival, Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep).
Meanwhile Majka, despite twice narrowly missing out on stage victories, won the polka dot jersey as best climber for the second time in his career.
With two riders placed in the top 10 – Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, sixth – Movistar won the team classification ahead of Team Sky, while that man Sagan was also elected the most combative rider of the peloton after a string of attacking performances underlined his status as the most exciting rider of his generation.
Adam Yates, Chris Froome, Peter Sagan and Rafal Majka ahead of stage 21 of the Tour de FranceEurosport
How the stage was won
After a processional ride of almost 70 kilometres as the remaining 175 riders approached Paris from the town of Chantilly, the final stage sparked into life in the French capital.
Once Spanish veteran Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was given the honour of leading the peloton onto the Champs-Elysees in his final Tour, French national champion Arthur Vichot (FDJ) made the first attack before eight riders managed to extricate themselves from the peloton on the first of eight laps.
Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Lawson Craddock (Cannondale-Drapac), Markus Burghardt (BMC), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Jan Barta (Bora-Argon18), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) never established a lead of more than 30 seconds as the Direct Energie team of French sprinter Bryan Coquard controlled the chase on the front of the peloton.
The Etixx-QuickStep team suffered a dual set-back when Germany’s Tony Martin was forced to abandon the race with a sore knee and compatriot Marcel Kittel required multiple bike changes just as the pace was picking up.
An irate Kittel managed to fight back into the peloton but he was unable to add to his previous two victories on the Champs-Elysees. Coquard, too, had his hopes dashed when picking up a puncture with three kilometres remaining.
After Team Sky duo Luke Rowe and Wout Poels had entered the fray to reel in the break, Greg van Avermaet (BMC) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) opened up a small gap but were reeled in at the start of the final lap.
Greipel proved the strongest on the home straight, surging from the slipstream of Kristoff before holding off the brilliant Sagan as the sun set on both Paris and the Tour. Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Michael Matthews (Orica-BIkeExchange) completed the top five.
Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) wins stage 21 of the Tour de FranceAFP
“I can’t describe it. I’m super proud to win on the last day and with the team who kept on believing in me throughout the three weeks,” said 34-year-old Greipel – who had struggled to impose himself on previous bunch sprints largely dominated by former team-mate Mark Cavendish, the quadruple stage winner from Dimension Data.
“We kept on trying and trying. I chose the wheel of Kristoff to follow which was the best today. I’m happy I could finish it off and get another win on the Tour de France.”
How Froome won the Tour
To secure his third Tour win in five years Froome showed resilience, tenacity and all-round ability during the 103rd edition of the world’s biggest bike race. He won two stages while shrugging off a downhill tumble in the Alps and the bizarre, unprecedented moment when he was forced to run up Mont Ventoux after breaking his bike in a collision with a motorbike.
Unexpected attacks on the descent to Bagneres-de-Luchon in stage eight (which he won) and in the crosswinds to Montpellier in stage 11 (won by Sagan) underlined the strength of Froome’s armoury and saw the Briton take vital seconds over his rivals while stealing a psychological march ahead of the all-important four days in the Alps.
But it was the Sky rider’s climbing and time trialling ability that saw Froome put the race out of reach of his opponents. Victory in the mountain ITT to Megeve in stage 18 over Tom Dumoulin (Giant Alpecin) added to his second-place behind the Dutchman in the earlier race against the clock in stage 13 saw the Briton’s lead rise to more than three minutes.
Yellow jersey leader Team Sky rider Chris FroomeReuters
When Froome’s nearest opponents – Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Yates – dropped out of the podium positions in the wet and wild stage 19, won by the promising Bardet, the yellow jersey was able to extend his lead at the top despite crashing on a wet white line on a heart-in-mouth descent.
The battered and bruised Froome then used his team-mates to control a final sodden stage in the Alps to all but secure the fourth British and Team Sky victory in the Tour in five years. With the nation's first Tour winner Bradley Wiggins knighted for his efforts, it’s hard to see a triple winner in Froome being overlooked the same title in the Queen’s next honours list. Arise, Sir Chris...