Chris Froome wrote himself further into the cycling history books after securing a fourth Tour de France victory in Paris.
The Team Sky rider was flanked by his team-mates as he crossed the line on the Champs-Elysees, and claimed the famed maillot jaune by an eventual winning margin of 54 seconds
Froome’s third victory in a row, and a fifth in eight years for Team Sky, came after three hard weeks of racing, with the team holding the race lead for 19 of the race’s 21 stages.
Yellow helmets and race numbers also signified victory in the Tour’s team GC for the first time – a classification Team Sky led from start to finish – with seven minutes and 14 seconds over nearest rivals Ag2r-La Mondiale.
Mikel Landa clinched fourth overall on the day, one tantalising second off a podium spot, after putting together a strong race and taking his opportunities while riding in support of Froome.
A fourth win elevates Froome to fifth on the all-time list of winners, with just Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain now ahead of the Kenyan-born Brit.
It also continues the 32 year old’s incredible run of Grand Tour results, placing no worse than fourth in every three-week race he’s finished – a record which now dates back to 2011.
“I’m speechless. It’s just an amazing feeling,” said Froome after climbing off his bike in Paris.
“The Champs Elysees never disappoints. There’s something magical about it when you’ve spent three weeks thinking about being here and this moment. It’s so rewarding, every time.
“Each time I’ve won the Tour it’s been so unique, so different, such a different battle to get to this moment. They’re all so special in their own ways. This year will be remembered as being the closest and most hard-fought battle between the GC rivals.”
19 days in yellow is also the longest stint in the race lead for Team Sky to date, with Geraint Thomas storming into the famous jersey after winning the opening time trial in rainy Dusseldorf.
Team Sky set about defending that jersey across the three weeks, with Froome assuming the lead after the race’s first summit finish on stage five. The team dug deep, weathering the loss of Thomas due to a crash and a broken collarbone, and defending the jersey. Luke Rowe also fractured a rib in a crash at the end of the race’s first week, but was able to continue to Paris and wrap up the prized lanterne rouge in the process.
Mikel Nieve (who finished 14th in his own right) and Sergio Henao provided vital support in the high mountains. Michal Kwiatkowski rode the race of his life in service of Froome, and was a constant presence both on the flat and on the climbs. Rowe and Christian Knees put in huge stints on the front across the flatlands and early climbs, while Vasil Kiryienka was his usual dependable self. Landa provided help right up to the finish line of many a stage.
Despite losing the lead for two days, Froome and the team showed great character and resolve, before ultimately putting the Tour beyond reach with an emphatic final time trial in Marseille.
After the race ended in a traditional sprint on the Champs-Elysees, won by Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Froome took to the podium to address the fans.
He said: “Firstly I want to dedicate this victory to my family. Michelle, Kellan, your love and support makes everything possible. You’ve been there for me through the ups and the downs and my life with you is what makes all the sacrifices worth it. Thank you.
“I also want to thank my team, Team Sky. I could not have achieved this victory without you. On and off the bike, your dedication and passion means we are a team I am proud to be a part of it.
“This Tour has been my toughest challenge yet. The performances of my rivals have pushed me harder than ever before, so I want to pay tribute to all the riders for their sportsmanship over the past three weeks. We race hard against each other, we suffer together, but the most special thing is the camaraderie and friendship in the peloton.
“The opportunity to win a fourth Tour de France this year has motivated and inspired me more than ever before. It is an honour to even be mentioned alongside those who form such an important part of the Tour’s history. It is a history I am very proud to be a part of, but every Tour is unique, and every year is a new story to be written.
“I will never forget what it means to wear the maillot jaune, and what an incredible privilege it is to stand here on the Champs Elysees as winner of the Tour de France.”