23 Jul 2017

Froome one ride from fourth Tour title

6:22 pm on 23 July 2017

British cyclist Chris Froome looks set to take his fourth Tour de France title as he heads into the final 103-kilometre stage to Paris.

Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru and Chris Froome.

Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru and Chris Froome. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Barring a calamity on the champagne-sipping celebratory ride from Montgeron to the Champs-Elysées, the 32-year-old captain of the Team Sky armada will claim a third consecutive win and fourth in five years.

Froome arrived in Marseille for Saturday's time trial with a slender 23-second lead over France's great hope Romain Bardet.

As it turned out Bardet was cooked and suffered a nightmare ride through the old port city and was only just spared the humiliation of being caught by Froome before the finish line at the Velodrome soccer stadium -- despite the yellow-jersey holder rolling off the start line two minutes later.

Bardet, who slipped to third behind Cannondale-Drapac's Rigoberto Uran, did push Froome to the limit throughout the three weeks and left him trailing one day in the Pyrenees.

While Froome failed to land any hammer blows in the mountains, he more than made up for that in the time trials in Dusseldorf and Marseille where he put 76 seconds on Colombian Uran who trails by 54 seconds.

Froome is well served by his team mates, but is still a class apart -- and still improving.

"I'm becoming a more complete rider," he said. "Tactically I can still improve."

If he win, it will be the first time Froome has won the Tour without winning a stage, and his margin of victory will be his smallest.

But he is not concerned.

"The tactic was for a three-week race, just chipping away and not trying to blow the race apart on one stage," he said.

"It was that type of course. I suffered in the Pyrenees and lost 25 seconds to Peyragudes. But normally a bad day in the mountains you can lose three minutes.

"Every Tour is hard, it's difficult to say which was the hardest, every year you suffer. Definitely this was closest."