Tour de France 2015: Chris Froome's epic mountain ascent puts glory in his grasp

Briton stuns field with superb breakaway on stage 10

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The Independent Online

A giant poster at the foot of the Tour’s 15-kilometre ascent to the summit finish of La Pierre-Saint-Martin read Tout commence ici, “it all starts here”. But after Chris Froome soared up the first major climb both to take the stage win and massively strengthen his overall lead, another one might well have read, “And it all ends here, too”.

In just one stage and after one outstanding climbing performance, Froome’s overall advantage has stretched from Monday’s 12 seconds on his closest pursuer, Tejay Garderen, to a massive two minutes and 52 seconds on the American. A second Tour is not in the bag for Froome yet – Paris is still 11 days away – but this was the kind of knockout blow that makes it more than likely.

Six kilometres from the sun-drenched summit of the Pyrenean climb, there were gasps in the Tour’s press as Froome suddenly bolted away alone, leaving his most tenacious rival, Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, reeling in his wake.

In his trademark position, head bent close over his handlebars and legs spinning at a ferocious pace, Froome then maintained a steady but relentlessly high pace. It was to prove devastatingly effective.

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Chris Froome, Tejay Van Garderen, and Nairo Quintana climb a hill during Tuesday's 167 km stage (Getty)

Ever since the much shorter Mur de Huy climb on stage three, when a short punchy attack had proved enough to net Froome a brief spell in yellow, such a move had been on the cards. But that was more of a shot across the bows of his rivals; this time, a week later, it was clear Froome meant much more serious business.

“When I attacked, it was more just a feeling I had that my rivals weren’t so good, I told [team-mates] Geraint [Thomas] and Richie [Porte], let’s give it everything,” Froome said.

“I lifted it up whilst the climb was still steep, before it flattened towards the summit. Being able to ride away like that – it’s a dream, dream scenario, I couldn’t ask for more.”

 

Whilst Froome, with a huge smile and arms suddenly flung skywards, celebrated the fifth stage win of his career, his Sky team-mates added to the success story by turning in strong performances.

Behind the Briton, Porte closed the gap on the stage on Quintana to claim second. Thomas, too, came home very well placed in sixth – just ahead, for that matter,  of another strong British ride, by Tour rookie Adam Yates of the Orica-GreenEdge squad.

Yates’s ride bodes very well for the future, but as far as the present was concerned, Froome’s performance represents a major step towards his second Tour in three years. With Quintana crossing the line at 1min 4sec behind Froome, Van Garderen – the rival described by Froome as his biggest threat – at over two minutes, Alberto Contador at nearly three and last year’s winner, Vincenzo Nibali, at 4min 25sec, in a single climb of a single stage the Sky rider has soared into a class of his own.

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Chris Froome on his way to winning the 10th stage of the Tour de France between Tarbes and La Pierre-Saint-Martin (EPA)

Asked to compare his win with his last victory on Bastille Day, on Mont Ventoux in 2013 – which also effectively netted him the Tour – Froome said: “It was a very different point in the race, the day before the second rest day. But it’s an absolutely amazing feeling to be able to repeat that kind of finish. It  doesn’t get too much better than this.”

Just like in 2013, too, Froome and Sky are already bracing themselves for questions about doping – which have assailed every winner in recent years and which may well intensify after reports that Froome’s training data from 2013 had been hacked.

When asked about the hacking, Froome’s reaction was that he was “just focusing on the race” but he reacted more strongly when asked how he could prove he was riding clean.

“What haven’t I done?” he asked rhetorically. “I’ve tried to be as much of a spokesman for clean racing as I can, I’ve spoken to Circ [Cycling’s Independent Reform Commission], I’ve made suggestions to [cycling’s governing body] the UCI about night-time testing, and pointed out when I’ve felt there were not enough controls. What else is a clean rider supposed to do?”

As for the race, his rivals have not said they will simply accept the status quo. Contador warned: “I have been in Froome’s position [as Grand Tour leader] a lot of times, and with everything left to come, I wouldn’t take anything for granted.” But there can be no doubt that from here on the Tour is Froome’s to lose.

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