MONT VENTOUX, France — British rider Chris Froome showed why he remains the overwhelming Tour de France favourite by winning the gruelling 15th stage up to Mont Ventoux to extend his lead over main rival Alberto Contador last night.
Froome attacked about two-thirds of the way up the mammoth 21-kilometer (13-mile) Ventoux, and his brutal acceleration was too much for two-time former champion Contador. The Spaniard dropped back and finished about 1 minute, 40 seconds behind. Colombian Nairo Quintana was second, 29 seconds behind.
“This is massive. Everyone wanted to win this stage today, on Bastille Day, being on top of Mont Ventoux,” Froome said. “It really was an epic stage today.”
The win means Froome effectively made up the time he lost on Friday’s sprint stage, when Contador caught him out with a surprise attack.
“My objective today was to take a bit of time in the general classification, but I didn’t think I could win the stage,” Froome said. “I thought Quintana would win it. But then his legs started to go in the last two kilometers.”
Ventoux is one of the most famed climbs in the Tour’s 110-year history. Britain’s Tom Simpson collapsed and died on
it during the 1967 Tour. Froome raised his right arm in the air when he clinched his
second stage win of the race after winning a mountain stage in the Pyrenees on stage 8 with a similarly effective attack.
“It was incredible today, incredible. This is the biggest victory of my career,” Froome said. “This climb is so historical. It means so much to this race, especially being the 100th edition.”
Froome’s Sky team manager Dave Brailsford hailed his rider as “above his competitors” adding that “every time it’s been man against man, Chris has shown he’s up to the challenge.”
It is the first Tour since Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour titles (1999-2005) for serial doping.
Froome has twice been asked during the race if he is racing clean and has assured that he is.
He was not asked after yesterday’s stage, but Brailsford said: “we have a great performance and 10 minutes later I jump for joy like this, and then 10 minutes later I guarantee you I’ll be answering all these questions and allegations about doping for the next few days.”
Froome now leads Dutchman Bauke Mollema by 4 minutes, 14 seconds and Contador by 4:25. (AP)