To put it mildly, Chris Froome’s Tour de France performance this year was unforgettable. Especially, stages eight and twelve of the 21-stage race.
Stage 8, on July 9: Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon; 184km; mountain stage Froome elbowed a fan in the face and was fined 200 Swiss francs (£157) by the race jury for “inappropriate behaviour”. A Colombian fan—wearing the national football shirt and a yellow wig and waving a flag—jogged too close to Froome as the cyclists struggled up a gradient. Froome lashed out with his left hand.
The cyclist was defending his title and his main rival was two-time Tour runner-up Nairo Quintana of Colombia. The Twitterati went wild, saying that the lashing out had to do with the rivalry. Froome defended his action, but apologised to the fan online—in English and Spanish.
Stage 12, on July 14: Montpellier to Mont Ventoux; 178km; mountain stage With less than a kilometre remaining on the stage, Australian Richie Porte crashed into a camera motorbike as fans crowded in and narrowed the road. Froome crashed with Porte and Dutchman Bauke Mollema. And, as if it was not enough, another motorbike crashed into Froome’s bike from behind and broke it. Froome later told the media: "I told myself, 'I don't have a bike and my car is five minutes behind with another bike. It's too far away, I'm going to run a bit'." And, run he did. He lugged his broken bike for a while, and then ditched it and ran on. The run inspired admiration and hilarity online. One meme showed Froome running behind Forrest Gump!
But, the cyclist had the last laugh. He picked up his third Tour title and became the first rider to defend it since Spanish great Miguel Indurain did it in 1995. Froome joined American Greg LeMond, Frenchman Louison Bobet and Belgian Philippe Thys, the only men to have won three Tours. His next target will be the five victories achieved by Indurain, Belgian Eddy Merckx and Frenchmen Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil.
After the Tour win, Froome had said that most of his rivals were too "tired" to launch attacks against him. It was not clear if he was referring to Rio, but seems like he was. Yes, Froome is a strong contender in the road race and time trial events. Fellow cycling great from Team GB, Bradley Wiggins, too, backs his gold quest. But, there is competition in the form of Mark Cavendish. The challenge, Wiggins said, was that Froome and the team would not have the advantage of home or home continent conditions—which they had in London 2012.