ROME (AFP) - Britain's Chris Froome, of Team Sky, completed a sensational comeback to win the Giro d'Italia on Sunday (May 27) for a rare Grand Tour treble after the 21st and final stage in Rome.
Froome, 33, became the first Briton to win the race in the Giro's 101-year history after a 115km closed circuit race through the streets of the Italian capital.
But his presence was not without controversy as he was competing despite an ongoing investigation after returning an adverse analytical finding during his Tour of Spain win last year.
Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford insisted Froome was able to perform as he did because he "100 per cent knows that he has done nothing wrong".
Riding a pink bicycle, to match his leader's jersey his triumph on Rome's Imperial Forums, where Ireland's Sam Bennett (Bora) took the 21st and final stage, capped a long chaotic journey for the Briton.
From the departure in Jerusalem, a historical novelty of this Giro, to the Alps of Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta, the four-time Tour de France winner endured what he called "the greatest battle of my career".
Sitting fourth overall three days before the finish, he seized the race leader's pink jersey on Friday after capping a 80km solo breakaway with a stage win, and held it all the way to Rome.
Froome is now the reigning champion in all three of cycling's Grand Tours - the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana - and becomes only the third rider to achieve the feat after Belgian Eddy Merckx (1972/73) and France's Bernard Hinault (1982/83).
"I'm still pinching myself. I can't believe I'm here," said the six-time Grand Tour winner. "This is the dream to have all three jerseys in the space of ten months. It's an incredible feeling."
Froome finished 46sec ahead of defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) of the Netherlands in the overall standings, with Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) third at 4min 57sec.
"I don't think it's quite sunk in yet. I hope it will over the next three days," added Froome, who was competing in the Italian race for the first time in eight years.
"I've always been a bit afraid of coming here. The demands of the race are so different than any other race. To be here and to have won it I can't quite believe it."
Bora rider Bennett sprinted to victory in the final stage, his third of this year's race, after pipping four-stage winner Elia Viviani (Quick Step) at the line.
Froome's maiden Giro triumph has also set up the possibility he could target a rare Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double in the same calendar year - last achieved by Italian rider Marco Pantani in 1998. It was also the first time since Pantani's victory that year that the winner was also the King of the Mountains.