British victories in the Tour suddenly resemble buses – you wait 99 Tours for the first one and then two come along one after the other – but the significance of Froome’s win will reach much further around the globe than that of Bradley Wiggins 12 months ago.
Froome made sure of his victory with third place on Saturday’s stage 20 to Annecy-Semnoz, emerging with a lead still north of five minutes heading into yesterday evening’s processional stage under the lights in Paris.
But the Tour had already looked won in the days before, with Froome a clear cut above his rivals throughout.
That it was a performance which lived up to his billing as the favourite made it no less remarkable for a man who has taken a unique path to the top step of the podium.
In the village just outside Nairobi where that journey began, his first coach David Kinjah was watching on with pride as Froome climbed the final kilometres to the summit of Annecy-Semnoz to write his name in history as the winner of the 100th Tour.
This was where Froome, the son of a former England hockey youth player, slept five to a room on the floor of Kinjah’s hut in between training rides through Ngong hills, a world away from the traditional cycling education.
“No doubt they’ll celebrate by going out for a long 200 kilometre ride, attacking each other the way they always do,” said Froome with a smile when asked how he imagined Kinjah and his current crop of students marking his victory.
In fact, Kinjah was out on a more leisurely ride yesterday morning, but one in which anyone was welcome to join in as long as they turned up wearing yellow.
This is exactly the sort of thing Froome wants to see.
“I’d like my performance this year to inspire youngsters who find it very hard to believe they can get out of Africa and get to Europe and make it in a professional peloton,” he said.
“I think my experiences show that if you really want to make something happen, you’ll find a way.”
Froome’s path began when his mother first took him to Kinjah – the first black African to sign for a European team – with Jane Froome desperate to find a way to channel her son’s enthusiasm for riding his bike into something more substantial.
Froome would never look back, but if he has one regret, it is that his mother has never been able to see his greatest triumphs, passing away weeks before he made his Tour debut in 2008.
“She’s been a really big motivation for me,” said Froome. “I’d like to think she’s been there alongside me every step of the way.”
He made that Tour debut as something of a rough diamond, finishing 84th for the Barloworld team. He would not return until 2012, but by then he was part of Team Sky’s attempt to crown a first British winner, finishing second overall as he helped Wiggins to victory.
By then, he knew his own time was coming.
“I think the first time I thought I could realistically contend in a Grand Tour like the Tour de France was the 2011 Vuelta a Espana,” said Froome of a race in which he finished second, ahead of Wiggins.
“Until then I’d found it very difficult to perform consistently highly in the stage races.
“But my performance there gave me a lot of confidence and belief.”
By then, the reason for much of Froome’s early inconsistency had been discovered with a diagnosis of bilharzia, a debilitating tropical disease he had contracted while playing in Kenya’s rice paddies as a boy.
“One small cold could stop me training and I’d get stuck in a cycle,” Froome recalled. “It was really hard to find motivation but that’s where having a support structure around you, friends and family, lifts you and helps you see the bigger picture.”
Bilharzia now ranks on the growing list of foes Froome has defeated to become a Tour de France champion.
At the age of 28, he surely has more years like this in him and, worryingly for rivals already left in his wake, Froome believes he can still get better.
“I got into the sport late and I’ve only been a professional for five years,” he said.
“This is my sixth year and it’s been a really, really fast progression. I’ve learned so much, but I refuse to accept I don’t still have improvements to make.”
One journey ended in Paris last night, but Froome is already charting a course for his next.
Marcel Kittel beat Mark Cavendish to the line in Paris to end the Manxman’s run of consecutive victories on the final stage of the Tour.
Cavendish had won four in a row on the Champs Elysees but could only manage third place last night behind Kittel and his fellow German Andre Greipel.
It was a fourth stage win of the Tour for the 25-year-old Kittel, who has put the Manx Missile in the shade over the past few weeks.
Cavendish, in contrast, finished with two stage wins, the lowest total of his career after a Tour filled with incident and frustration.
After three weeks which have seen him caught in crashes, battle illness and get sprayed with urine by a spectator, Cavendish suffered a puncture during the third lap of the circuit and although he was quickly back in the peloton, the extra effort may have told in the final reckoning.
While fate may have leant a hand in Cavendish’s frustrations in France this summer, he has been quick to realise the formidable opponent he has in Kittel, referring to him as “the real deal”.
Kittel saw his Tour debut curtailed by illness just five stages in last year, but has starred second time around, taking the yellow jersey on the opening stage and outshining his sprint rivals again and again, most obviously when he came from more than a bike-and-a-half’s length down to beat Cavendish on stage 13 to Tours.
As night fell, the Tour finishing late as part of its 100th edition celebrations, Froome could get his party started having finished with a final margin of four minutes 20 seconds over Nairo Quintana.
The traditional procession in from Versailles began with Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez celebrating his third place overall by handing out cigars to fellow podium finishers Froome and Quintana.
Froome was then handed the customary glass of champagne as he rode alongside a Team Sky car with its branding coloured in yellow, while he was surrounded by team-mates in special yellow-tinged sunglasses.
They arrived in the centre of Paris just as the sun was beginning to set, and Froome insisted that his chief lieutenant Richie Porte lead the Sky train over the finish line of the Champs-Elysees on the first of their 10 circuits.