Nick Westby: Clean sweep as British cycling enjoys some halcyon days

Britain's Chris Froome, wearing his torn overall leader's yellow jersey, bleeds after crashing during the nineteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 146 kilometers (90.7 miles) with start in Albertville and finish in Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, France. (Keno Tribouillard via AP Photo)
Britain's Chris Froome, wearing his torn overall leader's yellow jersey, bleeds after crashing during the nineteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 146 kilometers (90.7 miles) with start in Albertville and finish in Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, France. (Keno Tribouillard via AP Photo)
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Chris Froome’s coronation on the Champs Elysees on Sunday afternoon will further underline the mammouth strides British cycling has made in the last half-decade.

That and a critic-defying stint from Mark Cavendish – who claimed four Tour de France sprint victories to move into second place outright in the list of all-time stage wins – as well as the emergence of Bury’s 23-year-old Adam Yates as a podium contender and the best young rider, confirms the nation’s standing as the new road cycling superpower.

Britain's Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, leads the pack as they speed downhill during the nineteenth stage of the Tour de France on Friday, July 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Britain's Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, leads the pack as they speed downhill during the nineteenth stage of the Tour de France on Friday, July 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Throw in Yorkshire lass Lizzie Armitstead, world champion and Olympic favourite next month, and it is safe to see that these are halcyon days for British cycling.

At the Tour de France, this country has never had it so good.

Less than a decade ago, Britain’s Tour pedigree lay in the bygone deeds of Brian Robinson, Tommy Simpson and Barry Hoban; Yorkshiremen all who broke ground by winning stages and wearing the yellow jersey for the odd day.

Now the maillet jaune should come with a Union Jack on the arm.

When Froome seals his victory in the Alps today – barring a crash that is the only thing that can stop him – it will be his third Tour win in four years.

Going back to Sir Bradley Wiggins’s pioneering triumph in 2012, it is a fourth win in five years for British riders.

Had Froome not crashed out on the cobbles in the first week two years ago, who is to say it would nott have been five in five?

Froome has dominated this year’s tour in a way reminiscent of how Lance Armstrong took a stranglehold on the race in the early Noughties.

The Texan was doing so illegally, of course, something the scandal-weary hacks who follow the Tour circus feared would be true of the 31-year-old Froome, or anyone who was leaving the peloton in his wake.

Froome’s 2015 Tour win was marred by repeated questions about whether he was doping, and it was a stain that followed him all the way around France, prompting one road-side fan to throw urine at him and some to spit at him.

This month has been different. Froome released his physiological data over the winter to quell the suspicions and it appears to have worked.

Little has been questioned about the merits of his performance. There has been an acceptance that he is the superior athlete – and clean.

Team Sky are on the verge of a fourth Tour de France win in five years because they have an attacking mentality. They go out to try and win the Tour, while their main rivals – Movistar’s Nairo Quintana in particular – have waited for things to fall in their lap.

Froome takes the bull by the horns, as he so emphatically demonstrated on stage eight on the road to Bagneres-de-Luchon, when he risked his health by sitting on the crossbar of his bike to daringly descend a 1.5km summit and steal a march on his rivals.

Then for his second stage win of this Tour, Thursday’s time-trial in the mountains, Froome came with a modified bike and a new position in the saddle, to show his prowess against the clock.

Froome is a true and worthy champion.

The only question after this month in France, is how long can he dominate this famous race for?