Chris Froome, jack of all trades, master of three-week racing | the 2017 Tour de France final week wrap

Chris Froome's back (via YouTube)

Chris Froome’s back (via YouTube)

The title of my article on the first rest day of this race was ‘Chris Froome still intact’ and I’m not honestly sure we moved on from that. The Sky man didn’t so much win the 2017 Tour de France as never get round to losing it.

‘Twas ever thus, you might say (a tad poncily, if you don’t mind my saying) but this is the first time there has been no stage win for Froome. The thin-lipped agglomeration of elbows and knees goes into every Tour as favourite but this victory certainly felt more eked-out than his previous ones.

Here’s a quick rundown of what came across as being not much more than i-dotting and t-crossing in the final week.

Stage 17

2017 Tour de France, stage 17

I’m going to make the case that you could have got the general gist of this year’s Tour de France from just this one stage.

Think of how it ended. Chris Froome, Rigoberto Uran and Romain Bardet all finished together and squabbled for bonus seconds, while almost all of their other rivals were a bit further back. Warren Barguil finished in the same group, getting his face on telly, and Froome’s wingman Mikel Landa lost three seconds that would have been zero seconds – or even a gain – if he hadn’t been put to use in support of his team leader at crucial moments during the stage.

It was broadly inconclusive, but Froome stayed ahead thanks to the time trial on stage one. The race in a nutshell.

Stage 18

2017 Tour de France, stage 18

Barguil won; Froome, Uran and Bardet squabbled for bonus seconds ahead of their other rivals; and Mikel Landa finished a few seconds behind having done a load of work for Froome.

If we’d not been here before, we’d been somewhere very similar, multiple times.

Stage 20

2017 Tour de France, stage 20

Froome couldn’t live off his time trial advantage over Uran and Barguil for the entire race. He could do that for stages 2-19 and then on the final day of proper racing, he was obliged to add to that advantage via another time trial.

Froome finished third; Uran finished eighth, 20-odd seconds slower; and Bardet was 52nd, almost two minutes back, which was pretty dogshit in all honesty.

The Frenchman pleaded creeping illness, but it was a predictable result. “I made a choice not to focus on the time trial because it’s not the way I like to ride,” he said of his preparation.

Bardet labours in Marseille (via YouTube)

Bardet labours in Marseille (via YouTube)

Conclusion

Riding very quickly uphill is a great way to challenge for the Tour de France, but you need to be slightly better than competent on a time trial bike to be in with a shout of winning.

You need to be slightly better than competent at plenty of things, in fact. Chris Froome pretty much stuck with the best climbers, hung with the best time-trialists, stayed up front on fast run-ins and descended as well as anyone.

Having few weaknesses doesn’t necessarily make for spectacular viewing, but it does mean you’re the one most likely to be drinking fizzy rosé in Paris after three weeks of racing.

Boozy Froome (via YouTube)

Boozy Froome (via YouTube)

What’s next?

La Vuelta a Espana, the Tour of Spain, from August 19. Sign up for this site’s email for weekly updates from that race.

If you’re only a casual Tour de France follower, give the Vuelta a go because in many ways it’s everything the Tour’s not.

We had three summit finishes in this year’s Tour. The Vuelta has about nine, of varying degrees of difficulty. It is a race that demands the main contenders remain prominent and as such it’s easier to follow and (whisper it) a bit more entertaining as a consequence.

Froome, Uran and Bardet are all likely to take part, as should Fabio Aru and Alberto Contador. You can then throw in some of the best riders from this year’s Giro d’Italia as well, such as Vincenzo Nibali and Ilnur Zakarin – although not, sadly, Tom Dumoulin.