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Froome paints Paris yellow

22 July 2013, 08:19

Paris - Chris Froome has rode to victory in the 100th Tour de France on Sunday, dominating rivals over three weeks on the road and having coolly and adroitly dealt with doping suspicions off it.

Germany's Marcel Kittel won the 21st and final stage.

Team Sky's Froome, the winner of three stages, claimed his maiden yellow jersey with a winning margin of 5min 03sec on second-placed Colombian Nairo Quintana of Movistar.

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.

Slovakian Peter Sagan of Cannondale won the points competition's green jersey for the second successive year.

Argos sprinter Kittel ended Briton Mark 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.

It leaves Kittel, with four stage wins, as the top sprinter of this year's race.

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

Froome rode into Paris in style — in the canary yellow race leader's jersey he took on Stage 8 and never relinquished, vigorously staving off rivals whose concerted attacks turned this Tour into a thriller.

The 100th edition was visually stunning, too, starting 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 gruelling kilometres in total.

The final Stage 21 set 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 riding through the palace's manicured gardens, resplendent in their brightly collared team jerseys as they pedalled past lakes like mirrors, spurting fountains and unmoved statues.

"C'est formidable," Froome said before leading the pack off on what was expected to be a leisurely 133km jaunt ending with a competitive sprint on the Champs-Elysees by riders chasing the stage win. The fact that Froome speaks French has been gratefully noted by fans here.

Froome's clear physical superiority made him king of the 100th Tour.

He set off on the last stage with a race lead of more than 5 minutes.

If he retains that to the finish, as expected, it would be the largest winning margin since 1997, when Jan Ullrich beat Richard Virenque by 9 minutes, 9 seconds.

Ullrich has since admitted to doping and Virenque also confessed to using performance-enhancers.

Lance Armstrong had larger margins of victory than Froome but all seven of the Texan's wins were stripped from him last year for serial doping, his name literally crossed out in the Tour's official history.

At the first Tour since that shockwave, Froome had to ride through a barrage of doubt and scepticism, especially since his strength in the mountains and time trials reminded some observers of Armstrong and the way he and his team used to suffocate the race.

Unlike other riders who cut short questions about doping and bristled, Froome said he was happy to discuss the issue that has so poisoned his sport.

He insisted he rode clean and said he, too, felt let down by his cheating predecessors.

Froome also argued that his success demonstrates that cycling's anti-doping system — now among the most rigorous, invasive and sustained of any sport — must be working, because otherwise he wouldn't be able to win.

None of 100th Tour's podium finishers — Froome, Colombian Nairo Quintana and Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez — have 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 Armstrong's era and many other Tour podiums before and since.



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