PARIS — After the beer and champagne celebrations, Chris Froome delivered a sobering and emotional message from the Tour de France winner’s podium on the Champs-Elysees.
Ten days after the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice that killed 84 people, Froome — a Kenyan-born British rider who often trains on the French Riviera — reminded everyone what the Tour stands for.
“These events put sport into perspective but they also show why the values of sport are so important to free society,” Froome said on Sunday in a prepared speech. “We all love the Tour de France because it’s unpredictable but we love the Tour more for what stays the same — the passion of the fans for every nation, the beauty of the French countryside and the bonds of friendship created through sport. These things will never change.
“Thanks for your kindness in these difficult times,” Froome added, switching to French as he addressed the local fans. “You have the most beautiful race in the world. Vive le Tour, Vive la France.”
Cheered on by thousands of fans undeterred by the recent spate of violence across Europe, Froome celebrated his third Tour title in four years. He finished safely at the back of the main pack in the final stage, arm-in-arm with his teammates during the mostly ceremonial leg ending on the cobblestones below the Arc de Triomphe.
Immediately afterward, Froome was greeted by his wife and infant son, who he took in his arms.
“To Michelle my wife and my son Kellan, your love and support make everything possible. Kellan, I dedicate this victory to you,” Froome said, also thanking his teammates and coaches.
Andre Greipel of Germany won the 21st leg in a sprint finish.
At the start of the stage, Froome dropped back to his Team Sky car to collect bottles of beer and distributed them to each of his eight teammates for a celebratory round.
Then it was time for the traditional flute of champagne.
Froome rode a yellow bike to go with his yellow jersey, helmet, gloves and shoes. His teammates had yellow stripes on their jerseys and yellow handlebars on their bikes.
Froome also still had bandages on his right knee and elbow, the result of a downhill crash two days ago.
Froome finished with an advantage of 4 minutes, 5 seconds ahead of Romain Bardet of France, while Nairo Quintana of Colombia placed third overall, 4:21 back.
Only four men — five-time winners Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain — now have more Tour victories than Froome.
“I’ve definitely grown to appreciate this history of the sport a lot more,” Froome said. “Being in the position that I’m in now, I’m understanding how tough it is to win a race like the Tour de France. To win back-to-back editions and now to be a three-time winner is incredible. It’s beyond what I’ve ever dreamed.”
While other big riders of his generation like Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali have all three Grand Tours — the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta — Froome plans to keep his focus on the Tour.
“It would be my dream to keep coming back to the Tour de France for the next five, six years,” he said. “I’ve already won it three times and I wouldn’t say the novelty is wearing off. … It’s the biggest event we have on our calendar and to be here in the yellow jersey, it’s every cyclist’s dream.”
Compared to his wins in 2013 and 2015, Froome has become more adept at handling speculation that he is doping. After facing constant accusations during last year’s race — including a spectator yelling ‘doper!’ and hurling a cup of urine at him — Froome released some of his training data at the end of last year.
“I think I’ve put that to rest now,” he said. “I’ve really done a lot in terms of offering up my physiological data and trying to be open to people as much as I can while protecting a competitive advantage at the same time.”
Froome took the yellow jersey with a daring downhill attack in Stage 8, padded his lead with a late breakaway in Stage 11, and overcame a motor bike crash on the legendary Mont Ventoux and a fall on a slippery descent in the Alps with two stages to go.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme complimented Froome for showing “panache” after his downhill attack in the Pyrenees, and the fans have treated him better, too.
“The atmosphere on the roads has been fantastic,” Froome said. “The French public, they make this race what it is.”
Out of respect for the Nice victims, Froome refused to discuss race details the day after the attack. But he lauded Tour organizers for deciding to keep the race going.
“It’s been a really strong sign,” he said, “that life goes on and it’s not going to be stopped by these terrorist activities.”
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.