Chris Froome: Taking his place among cycling's greats
Cycling Road

Chris Froome: Taking his place among cycling's greats

10 September 2017 / 18:41

Race after race, stage after stage, Chris Froome gradually rides further up the rankings of the all-time cycling greats.

With victory in the 2017 Vuelta a Espana – sealed in Madrid on Sunday as he finished safely in the pack to record an overall 2:15 victory over Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali – the 32-year-old takes a giant step up in the eyes of many.

Taking his first Grand Tour victory outside the Tour de France.

Winning his fifth Grand Tour overall.

Becoming only the third man in history to win the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in the same year – and the first to do so since the Vuelta became a three-week race and moved to its current spot in the cycling calendar.

Froome is now up there with the best of them.

“There is a good reason why no-one has won the Tour and then gone on to win the Vuelta a month later – because it's a huge challenge, a huge undertaking," he said. 

“I think this is my greatest achievement – and I also have to say this is probably the toughest Grand Tour I have ever ridden.

“I could only have dreamed of being in a position to make history as the first British rider to win the Vuelta and the first British rider to win the Tour and go on to win the Vuelta in the same year.

“This feels like sealing my place in the history of the sport. It's special, very special.”

Only nine men have more Grand Tour victories to their name than Froome, with only four topping him in the Tour de France standings.

At 32, and with the last two Grand Tour jerseys under his belt, who is to say he will not go on to climb further up those lists?

Just one more Tour de France win would put him alongside Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil on five yellow jerseys – the most any rider has ever won.

After Saturday’s exhausting battle up Alto de l’Angliru that saw him seal his first ever read jersey, Froome dubbed it his greatest achievement.

Three second-place finishes had preceded it in the six years previous – with a fourth place also thrown in for good measure.

The Vuelta was where he made his Grand Tour breakthrough in 2011 – finishing above teammate Sir Bradley Wiggins and making good on his undoubted talent.

Ever since the red jersey had seemed elusive.

After his second place – behind Wiggins this time – at the 2012 Tour, he went to Spain with an Olympic time trial bronze medal in his back pocket and came fourth.

The following year he did not race after winning his maiden yellow jersey just two months earlier, before another second place finish came in 2014 – the year he crashed out of the Tour de France when trying to defend the title for the first time.

A crash put pay to his efforts at La Vuelta in 2015, and again in 2016 there was just one man better than him as Nairo Quintana claimed a maiden red jersey.

But this year, with long-time rivals Nibali and Alberto Contador targeting the race, as well as a three-pronged challenge from Orica-Scott and the likes of Ilnur Zakarin and Wilco Kelderman continuing to show why they will be the Grand Tour winners of the future, Froome was unbeatable.

A win in stage nine on the race’s first summit finish was followed by a comprehensive time trial victory on stage 16, as the Team Sky man held the red jersey for all but the opening two days of the race.

Not only that, but he also won the points and combined classifications – leaving him just one jersey, the king of the mountains, short of a clean sweep.

So when all I considered, it is hard to see how Froome – already Britain’s greatest stage racer of all time – will not go on to build on his standing and end his career among the pantheon of the greats, mentioned in the same breath as Merckx and Anquetil.

He is that good, and we should appreciate him while he’s still on his bike – because sportsmen like Chris Froome do not come around every day.

Sportsbeat 2017

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