Chris Froome vowed to always ‘honour’ the Tour de France yellow jersey after clinching his second title in Paris.
The 30-year-old Team Sky leader made a veiled reference to the critics of his performance over a turbulent three weeks which saw Froome called a ‘doper’, doused in urine and spat at.
The climate of suspicion is a legacy of the drug-assisted era of cycling, but Froome insists he is clean after finishing one minute 12 seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
“The maillot jaune is special, very special,” Froome said in his victory speech by the Champs-Elysees.
“I understand its history, good and bad, and I will always respect it, never dishonour it and I’ll always be proud to have won it.”
Froome’s first Tour title came in the 100th edition in 2013, and the first since Lance Armstrong was stripped of his record seven titles.
Then he was subject to scrutiny, and the innuendo and interrogations resumed as he reclaimed the title after crashing out of the 2014 race with a fractured hand and broken wrist.
Asked what honouring the yellow jersey meant to him, Froome said: “It’s pretty straightforward: In this day and age I feel someone needs to speak up for the cyclists of 2015 and of course I’m happy to do that.
“I’m in this position now. Someone’s got to take a stand, it’s time.”
Froome finished 136th on the stage, arm in arm with his Team Sky colleagues, as Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) recorded a fourth win of the race.
Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) was sixth.
Controversy has dogged the 102nd Tour and a protester managed to trespass on to the finishing circuit, 2.4 kilometres from the finish, in what appeared to be a bed sheet with a message.
It came at the end of a day which began with a police incident when a car tried to break through the barriers surrounding the route yesterday morning.
Greipel said: “Yes, I saw that. Actually the whole day I was a bit worried that something was going to happen.
“We saw a lot of police also on the parcours (course). I hope nobody was involved in a crash. It’s sad to see something like that in one of the biggest sporting events in the world.”
Froome secured the yellow jersey despite Quintana’s late attack to Alpe-d’Huez on Saturday, which left the 30-year-old Kenya-born Briton clinging on.
The 109.5km concluding stage from Sevres to the Champs-Elysees is traditionally a procession and saw Froome sip champagne and pose for photographs with his team-mates.
The rain which drenched the peloton at the start had disappeared by the time the riders reached the Champs-Elysees and the general classification times were set after the first passing of the finish line.
Froome, who became the second British winner of the King of the Mountains title in the competition’s 40-year history, still had to make sure he completed the stage to win, but he could avoid the sprinters’ teams battling for position.
The only trouble Froome encountered on a memorable day was when a paper bag became caught on his bike, requiring a change, on the ninth of 10 laps.
He said: “I’ll thank McDonald’s for that one – it was a McDonald’s bag or something – but all’s well that ends well.
“If I think back to where it all began in Holland, it just feels as though it was a lifetime ago with the guys.
“Last night we were reflecting on some of the moments.
“It’s been such a tough Tour, and we were just so happy to come out the way we did.”
The finish showed a solidarity which has served Team Sky well since the race’s start in Utrecht on July 4.
After the British squad’s third Tour title in four years, Froome thanked his eight team-mates by name, the Team Sky support staff, team principal Sir Dave Brailsford and his coach, Tim Kerrison, as well as his wife Michelle - who is pregnant with the couple’s first child.
One team-mate stood out for his consummate support – Geraint Thomas, who rode alongside Froome through crosswinds, across the cobbles and up mountains.
The 29-year-old from Cardiff was fourth until Friday’s 19th stage to La Toussuire, where his efforts took their toll, but he hopes to lead Team Sky in a Grand Tour in future.
Thomas, who eventually finished in 15th place, said: “It’s certainly given me a lot of confidence and encouragement for the future, and I’m really looking forward to it.”