Not a tour for the ages

Chris Froome (in yellow) celebrating with members of his Team Sky as he crosses the finish line of the 21st stage to win the 103rd edition of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysees.
Chris Froome (in yellow) celebrating with members of his Team Sky as he crosses the finish line of the 21st stage to win the 103rd edition of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysees. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Froome also provided one for the memories with the iconic moment at this year's Tour de France. He had to run towards the finish line on foot at the 12th stage after his bicycle gave way following a crash.
Froome also provided one for the memories with the iconic moment at this year's Tour de France. He had to run towards the finish line on foot at the 12th stage after his bicycle gave way following a crash.

Froome's broken bike offered a rare moment of note in a race that has been all too routine

PARIS • It has been far from a classic Tour de France but the 2016 edition did provide one of the most memorable moments in the race's history.

Just like the 1978 strike, the tears of Richard Virenque when kicked out of the 1998 Tour over the Festina affair, or Lance Armstrong going off road on a dangerous mountain descent yet remaining upright, this year's race provided an image that will endure for years.

It was Chris Froome, the reigning champion and race leader, who would go on to win a third title, clad from head to toe in yellow and on foot, sensationally running to the finish line of the race's most iconic mountain, Mont Ventoux.

The race would not live long in memories, but that moment will, as the Briton demonstrated the single-minded determination that would guide him again to victory.

"If anything it shows my will to win. How badly I want it," he said.

"Winning two Tours didn't make me complacent, didn't make me want it less. This one could be the first one all over again. I was going to fight just as hard."

Live television pictures missed the crash with a motorcycle that broke Froome's bike.

It was the kind of incident that could have made this one of the most spectacular Tours of all time, along with the collapsing inflatable arch that knocked young Briton Adam Yates off his bike the day before Froome's own troubles.

Such photo-friendly moments disguised to a certain extent the lack of action on the roads, at least when it came to the important prizes.

Froome was more dominant than in his previous two Tour successes.

Ever since taking time from his rivals on an audacious downhill attack on stage eight, before riding the windy 11th stage better than the rest to further extend his advantage, Froome and his Team Sky were in control.

Superior in descent and on the flat, the Briton then crushed all the rest on the 13th stage time-trial and took his gap out to minutes rather than seconds.

At no time, and least while seated on his bike, did he ever look flustered or in trouble.

He had initially lost time and lost his lead due to the Ventoux incident, but the race jury decided external factors had caused an unfair change to the standings and he was reinstated as leader.

With Colombia's Nairo Quintana out of sorts, claiming an allergy as the reason, and Spaniard Alberto Contador quitting the race during the ninth stage after illness weakened him having also been diminished by crashes on the first two days, Froome had no true rivals.

It left Yates and the unheralded Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands as Froome's two closest competitors for the largest part of the race, and neither had arrived at the Tour with title ambitions.

"I feel so privileged to be in this position where I've always had team-mates around me in the race," Froome told the crowd during his victory speech on the Champs Elysees.

"We've had by far the strongest team in this race and I'm incredibly grateful for that."

Instead, the race for minor placings was fierce, intense, tight and fluid.

Frenchman Roman Bardet took second ahead of a strangely satisfied Quintana while fifth-placed Australian Richie Porte was only 1min 12sec off Bardet.

The battles for the minor jerseys were no less predictable than the yellow one.

World champion Peter Sagan won a fifth straight green jersey, and Mark Cavendish demonstrated a remarkable return to form, winning four stages to take his career total to 30.

For the second time in three years, Poland's Rafal Majka won the polka-dot king of the mountains jersey, but the only man to try to challenge him was Belgian Thomas De Gendt, who is not even a climber.

Yates won the white young rider's jersey but even then, on the last stage at which time gaps could be made, he preferred to protect his two-minute white jersey advantage over South African Louis Meintjes rather than try to make up the 21sec that separated him from a podium finish.

It rather summed up this year's Tour.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline 'Not a tour for the ages'. Print Edition | Subscribe