Victory! After a hailing climb, and destroying on all his rivals Sky’s Chris Froome becomes the first Briton to win the stage at the famous Mont Ventoux
All Hail King Froome!
With a performance which felt almost other-worldly, perhaps the finest stage win in British cycling annals, this pipe cleaner of a man placed one hand on his heart and punched the other towards the Provence skies as he crossed the line on the Tour’s most feared slopes.
It was a victory full of pain and overflowing with emotion. The pain came from throttling all his rivals, one by one, on a 20.8km climb into uncharted realms of self-discovery with an effort so monumental that, for the first time in his career, he needed an oxygen boost before he walked gingerly and a bit light-headedly to the podium.
The emotion came with the victory occurring on Bastille Day on the mountain where Tommy Simpson, the first Briton to wear the yellow jersey, perished. Now the latest to wear the hallowed garment became the first Briton to conquer the mountain and win at its summit.
Nothing could stop him, though. The longest stage of the Tour was as epic as everyone had hoped, with a Movistar-pushed peloton speeding along for 220km of this 242.5km stage from Givors, so that they reached the foot of the mountain about 40 minutes ahead of schedule.
It was so hot and hectic over four tiddly climbs that some riders had been dropped even before Ventoux. France, winless in their historic Tour, demanded a hero and Sylvain Chavanel tried to oblige but, alas, was swallowed up when Movistar’s Quintana made his move with 13.5km remaining. Froome felt the Colombian was far too dangerous to let go too far. Kennaugh and Porte pushed on magnificently until only Contador was left among the chasers and Froome just skated clear of him without even rising from the saddle. Quite amazing.
Quintana was next, caught and passed with 6.5km left, but he fought back to leave Froome believing the Colombian would actually win the stage, only for him to run out of gas in the final 2km battle when the gradient averages a pitiless 9.5 per cent.
Froome’s last push was decisive. His attacks, he said, were less calculated and more based on feeling. “It becomes who can dig deepest, who can suffer more,” he mused. At the moment, he is doing all the digging and the rest are doing all the suffering.