Team Sky can begin preparing the customary yellow bike and the glasses of champagne for Sunday’s ride into Paris after Chris Froome extended his lead in Saturday’s time trial in Marseille, effectively wrapping up his fourth Tour title in the process. By the time Froome arrived in the Stade Velodrome, he was virtually on the wheel of Frenchman Romain Bardet, who began the day as his closest rival but faded to only just retain a podium spot. Instead, it is former Team Sky man Rigoberto Uran who sits second in the general classification, 54 seconds down.
Froome’s road captain Luke Rowe has been the lantern rouge – the last man in the Tour – for much of the second half of the race. Although a place in the quirky footnotes of Tour history is now his, the endless questions about the dubious honour had started to become a little wearing for the Welshman. But one Belgian reporter found a way to lighten the mood on Saturday by presenting Rowe with an actual red lantern. “I’ve not won it yet!” Rowe said. “You need to take it to Paris!” Rowe ultimately accepted the gift, even if he wasn’t sure it would get pride of place at home. “I’ll probably hide it,” he said.
There will not be a single rider in the peloton who is not looking forward to seeing Paris on Sunday – a sign that three gruelling weeks in the world’s biggest bike race are over. But the moment will be especially sweet for Cannondale-Drapac’s Taylor Phinney. The American will be making his first ever trip to the City of Lights, having deliberately held off visiting because he wanted his first time in the city to be at the end of a Tour de France. “I’m glad to finish my first Tour de France,” Phinney said. “But my best memory will be… tomorrow! I have had the Champs-Elysées in mind for many days. I look forward to it.”
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“I think everyone would agree with me when I say I have a unique style on the bike” – a victorious Froome was able to mock his own often gangly style when asked if he had used the Tour greats as role models when he was younger.