How did Chris Froome win the 2013 Tour de France?
By cycling slightly more quickly than everyone else, you might answer, if for some unexplained reason you wanted to be profoundly irritating. Let’s not go down that route. Let’s instead review the race.
Now we’ve got a complete picture, we can look back and identify the bits that matter. Artists and photographers will tell you that all of the picture matters, but they’re wrong. There’s always a main bit, except in modern art. For the purposes of this analogy, modern art is the Tour of Qatar.
Here’s where Chris Froome gained time on his rivals during the 2013 Tour de France.
Orica GreenEdge won, but Team Sky were only three seconds down. This meant Froome gained 17 seconds on Nairo Quintana, 25 seconds on Joaquim Rodriguez and six seconds on Alberto Contador. They’re not big gaps, but he nosed ahead of his main rivals here and never at any point dropped below them thereafter. There’s probably a Promenade des Anglais joke in here somewhere, but I strongly suspect it’s not worth searching for.
Just one week in and Cadel Evans’ challenge was over after he finished 4m13s down on Froome. Even Andy Schleck was closer, although he still lost 3m34s. Joaquim Rodriguez lost 2m06s. Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador lost 1m45s. The biggest challenge for Froome appeared to be launching his torso upwards using his spindly arms in order to celebrate the win.
This didn’t actually affect the general classification, but with Froome left without team-mates for half the day, it probably should have done. The stage also featured the only funny crash of the Tour. As a rule, crashes are NOT funny, but Peter Kennaugh landed in a nice soft (albeit possibly thorny) bush, so it’s just about okay to laugh at his forlorn self-extrication.
They don’t call it ‘the race of truth’ for nowt. Aerodynamics are of course important, but the tightest skin suit in the world isn’t going to get you or me up to 33mph for over half-an-hour on flat roads. (If Tony Martin’s reading this, ignore that last sentence – it’s not aimed at you.) Of those who appeared to be Froome’s challengers at the time, Alejandro Valverde finished closest to him – a full two minutes down. Nairo Quintana lost 3m16s and Joaquim Rodriguez another second on top of that. With Froome’s three stage wins, it’s easy to overlook that this was where the real damage was done.
Echelons! Froome lost 1m09s to Alberto Contador on this stage, but we also saw Alejandro Valverde ejected from the running, after finishing 9m54s down on the day.
Effectively a ‘race of slightly qualified truth’ – a 20km uphill time trial after 200km of flat. The stage asked the question: how fast can you cycle uphill when you’re already pretty knackered? No-one could cycle uphill more quickly when they were already pretty knackered than Chris Froome. Nairo Quintana resisted strongly, but still finished 29 seconds down. Rodriguez lost 1m23s, Contador 1m40s.
Froome’s spell of dominance was basically over now, but he still managed to edge another stage win. He gained another nine seconds on Contador, 10 seconds on Rodriguez and a rather more sizeable 1m11s on Quintana.
Froome gained 57 seconds on Contador, but lost 1m03s to Rodriguez, 1m06s to Quintana and 20 seconds as a result of munching in a no-munching zone.
It would have been interesting to have seen Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez in a four-week Supergrand Tour, because they seemed to last slightly better than Froome. Or maybe the motivation had gone. He knew he had things sewn up and wasn’t especially arsed about losing 29 seconds to Quintana and 11 seconds to Rodriguez.
The yellow jersey never loses time on the processional final stage, they say – but there’s nothing Chris Froome can’t achieve when he sets his mind to it. He sacrificed 53 seconds on the Champs Élysées in order to cross the line with just his team-mates. By this point, he could afford to.
We tend to look at the mountains, because those are the more dramatic stages, but Nairo Quintana lost 4m44s over the three time trials and lost the Tour de France by 4m20s (albeit that includes the 53 seconds on the final stage). You’ve got to be strong in the mountains and on the flat in order to win the Tour. Chris Froome was.