Chris Froome completed Sunday’s processional up and down the Champs-Élysées to win his fourth Tour de France title in five years. In the history of cycling, only four riders have won more — Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, and Jacques Anquetil. Froome is also one of five riders to ever win three consecutively, joining Louison Bobet, Indurain, Merckx, and Anquetil.
As dominant as Froome is — and he is assuredly deserving of his place as one of the best cyclists ever — his fourth yellow jersey didn’t come easily. For the first time in his career, he gave up the yellow jersey after taking it during the Tour. He wrangled the jersey from Sky teammate Geraint Thomas on Stage 5, then appeared to crack on the steep ramp into Peyragudes on Stage 12 and gave it to Fabio Aru. In the process, he looked more vulnerable than we have ever seen him in July.
But of course, as has always been the case, Froome was at his best in the Tour’s third week. He took the yellow jersey back for good on Stage 14 when Aru got caught too deep in the peloton before the uphill finish in Rodez, then proceeded to hold pace on the major Alpine climbs of Stage 17 and 18 as Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran attacked.
Froome had at least two riders within 30 seconds of him from Stage 12 until Stage 20, and managed to become just the seventh rider to ever win the Tour without a single stage win ... but he won, nonetheless, and his latest win might be his most impressive. Froome, at 32, is at an age when riders should be in decline, and the field of general classification contenders is getting stronger by the year.
How long Froome’s reign will last is difficult to say. Uran, who took second, seemingly had a career renaissance. Bardet, third, will be dominant if he ever learns to ride a time trial properly. Nairo Quintana, who finished a disappointing 12th, probably won’t be foolish enough to try to race the Giro d’Italia before the Tour next year. Mikel Landa, Froome’s teammate, likely would have been on the podium if he hadn’t been working for his team leader.
Then there are the riders who didn’t make it to the podium. One of the great what-ifs will be what might have happened if Richie Porte hadn’t suffered that terrible crash on the hair-raising descent of Mont du Chat during a wild Stage 9. Tom Dumoulin, who didn’t come to the Tour but bested Quintana at the Giro, is rounding into elite form, and will be among the favorites to win if he decides to ride the Tour next year.
And yet, how could anyone bet against Froome topping the podium again next year? The man proved in 2016 that he can win in practically every way possible. In 2015, he did it even when the world seemed to hate him. This year, he won when even the course was stacked against him. At this point, there’s nothing to do but to relent: Chris Froome is the best cyclist in the world and will be until such a time when he isn’t. Only the course of time can take him down now.
Final 2017 Tour de France general classification
1. Chris Froome, Team Sky
2. Rigoberto Uran, Cannondale - +00’54’’
3. Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale - +02’20’’
4. Mikel Landa, Team Sky - +02’21’’
5. Fabio Aru, Astana - +03’05’’
6. Daniel Martin, Quick-Step - +04’42’’
7. Simon Yates - Orica-Scott - +06’14’’
8. Louis Meintjes, Team Emirates - +08’20’’
9. Alberto Contador, Trek-Segafredo - +08’49”
10. Warren Barguil, Team Sunweb - +09’25”