Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Yellow jersey will stand test of time, drugs, rider says

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PARIS -- Chris Froome won the 100th Tour de France on Sunday and immediately vowed that his victory wouldn't be stripped for doping as Lance Armstrong's were.

"This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time," said the British rider who dominated rivals over three weeks on the road and adroitly dealt with doping suspicions off it.

Exceptionally, the 100th Tour treated itself to a night finish on the Champs-Elysees. The famous avenue and the Arc de Triomphe at the top of it were bathed in yellow light -- emphasizing the canary yellow of Froome's famous jersey.

In two years, Britain has now had two different winners: Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and now Froome, a cooler, calmer, more understated but no less determined character than his Sky teammate with famous sideburns.

Froome rode into Paris in style: Riders pedaled up to him to offer congratulations; he sipped from a flute of champagne; a Tour organizer stuck an arm from his car window to shake Froome's hand. He dedicated his victory to his late mother, Jane, who died in 2008.

"Without her encouragement to follow my dreams I would probably be at home watching on TV," he said.

Froome took the race lead on Stage 8 in the Pyrenees, never relinquished it and vigorously fended off rivals whose concerted challenges turned this Tour into a thriller. Froome and his Sky teammates linked arms as they rode for the line.

"This is a beautiful country with the finest annual sporting event on the planet. To win the 100th edition is an honour beyond any I've dreamed," he said.

Five-time winners Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain joined Froome on the podium. Missing, of course, was Armstrong. Stripping the serial doper of his seven wins tore a hole in the Tour's roll of honour as large as that left by World War II, when the race didn't take place from 1940-46.

None of the 100th edition's podium finishers -- Froome, Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez -- have ever failed a drug test or been directly implicated in any of cycling's litany of doping scandals. That is an encouraging and notable departure both from the Armstrong era and many other Tour podiums before and since.

Still, as the first Tour champion since Armstrong's disgrace last year, Froome rode through a barrage of doubt and skepticism, especially since his strength in the mountains and time trials reminded some of Armstrong and the way he and his team used to suffocate the race.

"In a way, I'm glad that I've had to face those questions, that after all the revelations last year and just the tarnished history over the last decade, all that's been channeled toward me now," Froome said.

"I feel I've been able to deal with it reasonably well throughout this Tour, and hopefully that's sent a strong message to the cycling world that the sport has changed -- and it really has."

"The peloton's standing together, the riders are united and it's not going to be accepted anymore."

The spectacular nighttime ceremonies, with the Eiffel Tower in glittering lights and the Arc de Triomphe used a screen for a flashing lightshow, capped what has been a visually stunning Tour.

It started with a first-ever swing through Corsica, France's so-called "island of beauty," before veering through the Pyrenees to Brittany and then across France to the race's crescendo in the Alps -- 3,404 grueling kilometres in total.

Because of the unique late-afternoon start for the final Stage 21, the riders raced on the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees as the sun cast golden hues over the peloton and shadows lengthened over the dense, cheering crowds. Marcel Kittel won the final sprint on the avenue, the German's sprinter's fourth stage win of this Tour.

French Air Force jets in formation trailed red, white and blue smoke in the skies. The riders circled like a necklace around the Arc de Triomphe in their bright colored team jerseys.

After setting off from the magnificent Versailles Palace, the former residence of three kings and their seat of power until the French revolution of 1789, the riders were granted the privilege of meandering through the chateau's manicured gardens, past lakes like mirrors, spurting fountains and statues looking on stonily.

The 169 finishers -- from 198 who started -- savored the pleasure of surviving the three-week ordeal.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 22, 2013 C4

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