The final stage of this year’s Tour de France finished under the lights on the Champs Elysses. (Photo: Bettini)
Britain’s Chris Froome was crowned champion of the 100th edition of the Tour de France as Germany’s Marcel Kittel powered his way to his fourth win on the 21st and final stage on Sunday.
Team Sky’s Froome, the winner of three stages in this edition, claimed his maiden yellow jersey with a winning margin of 4min 20sec on second-placed Colombian Nairo Quintana of Movistar.
“I think it’s going to take a while to sink in,” said a triumphant Froome, who succeeded teammate and compatriot Bradley Wiggins, absent this year, as the yellow jersey champion.
“It really has been a special edition of the Tour de France this year. Every day I woke up knowing I faced a fresh challenge… and I have to thank all my teammates for helping me achieve this dream.”
Froome, whose mother Jane died in 2008 three weeks before he raced his maiden ‘Grande Boucle’, paid tribute as he stood atop the podium.
“I’d like to dedicate this win to my late mother, without her encouragement to follow my dreams I would probably be at home watching this event on TV,” he added.
“It’s a great shame she never got to come see the Tour.” Race debutant Quintana, who moved up to second place thanks to his maiden stage win at the summit finish of Annecy-Semnoz on Saturday, secured the race’s white jersey for the best young rider and the best climber’s polka dot jersey.
He was joined on the podium by Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), third at 5:04 and one place ahead of former two-time winner Alberto Contador of Spain, who slipped to fourth on Saturday’s penultimate stage. Slovakian Peter Sagan of Cannondale won the points competition’s green jersey for the second successive year with a tally of 409 points and a 97-point lead on former winner Mark Cavendish of Britain.
Argos sprinter Kittel ended Cavendish’s hopes of a fifth consecutive win on the Champs Elysees when he outsprinted the Omega-Pharma sprinter and German Andre Greipel of Lotto in a thrilling dash for the line. Greipel, the winner of one stage, finished second with Cavendish, a close third. It left Kittel, with four stage wins, as the top sprinter of this year’s race and allowed the German to close the race as he opened it having won the opening stage from Porto Vecchio to Bastia.
“Four! I can’t believe it,” said Kittel. “It was a dream of mine to win on the Champs Elysees and now I’ve done it. I’m so proud.”
Kittel had been dubbed sprinting’s “next big thing” by Cavendish during the race, and the German added: “I was already hungry before (for wins) but it’s always nice to get such nice compliments form a guy like Mark. He’s a nice guy and he actually wished me good luck before the start of today’s race. That was really sporting.”
Froome began the final stage with a lead of 5:03 on Quintana – the largest margin since disgraced American Lance Armstrong claimed his sixth win in 2004 with a lead of six minutes on German Andreas Kloden. However, the Briton, who was unchallenged on a final stage which is traditionally contested by the sprinters, lost time to the Colombian in the final, frantic laps of a packed-out circuit in the French capital. Froome is the second successive Briton to win the race after teammate Bradley Wiggins, who made history as Britain’s first winner in 2012, when Froome finished runner-up. The 28-year-old Froome, born in Nairobi, won three stages on this year’s race – two on mountaintop finishes and one time trial – to take his tally to four.
His performances on this year’s race, the first since the downfall of Armstrong, raised eyebrows among sceptics. Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford, however, maintained that Froome and his team are clean and that in the Kenyan-born Briton, the sport is in “safe hands.”
“Chris really deserved this win, he worked so hard for it,” said Brailsford, who helped orchestrate British track cycling’s rise to world and Olympic domination in the past decade before turning his sights on road racing. “If you look at the future of cycling, I think in a rider like Chris the sports is in safe hands. There are no doubts about our team, no doubts whatsoever.”
TOUR DE FRANCE 2013 – STAGE 21
Versailles to Paris
1. Marcel Kittel (GER/ARG) 3h 06min 14sec
2. Andr Greipel (GER/LTB) at 0:00.
3. Mark Cavendish (GBR/OPQ) 0:00.
4. Peter Sagan (SVK/CAN) 0:00.
5. Roberto Ferrari (ITA/LAM) 0:00.
6. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/KAT) 0:00.
7. Kvin Reza (FRA/EUC) 0:00.
8. Yohann Gene (FRA/EUC) 0:00.
9. Daniele Bennati (ITA/SAX) 0:00.
10. Murilo Fischer (BRA/FDJ) 0:00.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2013 – General Classification
1. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 83h56min 40sec
2. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) at 4:20s
3. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 5:04.
4. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) 6:27.
5. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/SAX) 7:27.
6. Bauke Mollema (NED/BKN) 11:42.
7. Jakob Diemer Fuglsang (DEN/AST) 12:17.
8. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 15:26.
9. Daniel Navarro (ESP/COF) 15:52.
10. Andrew Talansky (USA/GRM) 17:39.