Tour de France 2015: 'It’s more special than I had ever thought possible,' says triumphant Chris Froome

 

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The Independent Online

Tour de France leader – and soon-to-be-winner – Chris Froome admitted that his hold on the yellow jersey had not been as tight as he would have liked at some points in the race, with illness making his task more difficult during the Alps.

But after the final mountain stage, the 30-year-old said  that despite all the difficulties he faced during the Tour, he never considered leading the race to be a burden. “I’ve spent too long and too much time working for this to see it that way,”  said Froome, who crashed out of the Tour in 2014 but who has made a spectacular comeback .

“Since the second rest day [last Tuesday] I’ve been a bit tight-chested and had a bit of a cough. I’d say half the peloton has got bugs or some kind of cold. I have been struggling a little and I’ll be glad to get through.”

Froome said that on the Tour’s final climb of Alpe d’Huez, where he lost 80 seconds to Nairo Quintana, he had been “on my absolute limit”.

 

“I felt like I was dying a thousand deaths. But my team-mates kept things manageable, and we were getting time checks, we could see the gap didn’t suddenly open by 30 seconds.”

As for the spitting attacks on the Alpe d’Huez, Froome played down their importance, pointing out that “99 per cent of the crowds were absolutely fantastic, that’s what makes the race so special. They cheer for all the riders. It’s a shame that image has been tarnished for others, but the vast majority of people have shown absolutely overwhelming support.”

Rather than demoralising the team, Froome argued such incidents like the spitting, or when he was dowsed with urine earlier in the race, had created greater unity.

 “As a team we’ve been up against it, there was so much going on away from the race which could have taken a lot of focus on what we needed for the racing, but as a group it’s brought us closer together as a team,” he said.

As for key rival Quintana, Froome tipped the Colombian as the rider most likely to challenge him in the years to come. “[Arch-rival] Alberto Contador will continue for a year, he says, but Nairo is five years younger than me. He’s got age on his side, and I’m sure he’ll give me a hard time in the years to come. This time, he pushed me all the way, I really admire and respect his personality. He’s chosen his moments to attack really well.”

As for Froome’s  race strategy, he confirmed that he had planned to make his first major assault on the yellow jersey where he duly did, on stage 10 on the Pierre-Saint- Martin, months before the Tour when he checked out the climb in training.

As for what taking the Tour twice in three years felt like to him, Froome put it simply:  “It’s more special than I ever imagined possible.”

And there seems to be no doubt he will be back next year to try to win the Tour for a third time, and perhaps more. “I’m not doing it [cycling] for a specific amount of time. I’ve set myself a goal of doing this until I’m 36, 37 or 38. I love the freedom that cycling gives you. What gets me out of bed in the morning is pushing my body to the limits.”

And yesterday, having done exactly that on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez, Froome was at last able to reap the benefits in full.