Dave Brailsford predicts more Chris Froome glory as Team Sky icon chases Tour and Vuelta double
In-depth: Chris Froome has won his fourth Tour de France, but there is no time for rest as he eyes victory in the Vuelta a España next month. Can he achieve a historic second Grand Tour of the season in such a short space of time?
Froome: The history maker and history chaser
The British rider has moved to within one of the all-time record of five Tour wins - jointly held by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. But it is another piece of cycling history he is chasing.
The Vuelta a Espana starts in less than four weeks, but Froome plans to be on the start line, bidding to become the first man to win two grand tours in the same season since Marco Pantani's Giro-Tour double in 1998.
No rider has won the Tour-Vuelta double since Hinault in 1978, when the Spanish race was still held in the first half of the season.
Froome's entire approach to this season and this Tour has been built around peaking later than usual, in the hope he can carry his Tour form forward into the Vuelta.
A closer margin of victory in France, but no less sweeter
The signs of a similar success in Spain are certainly good given how he was able to contain his rivals in the last week of one of the closest Tours ever contested.
Froome's final margin of victory over former team-mate Rigoberto Uran was just 54 seconds - the seventh narrowest in Tour history.
Froome effectively sealed victory in Saturday's time trial in Marseille. He enjoyed the traditional procession into Paris on Sunday, clinking champagne glasses with his team-mates and sports directors as the peloton ambled towards the capital.
Once they reached the Champs-Elysees the fast men got to work, with Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen beating Andre Greipel in the much-anticipated sprint finish.
But the moment belonged to Froome, who was greeted at the finish line by his wife Michelle and young son Kellan.
Froome: 'The most hard-fought victory of the lot'
"This Tour has been my toughest challenge yet - the performance of my rivals has pushed me harder than ever before so I want to pay tribute to my rivals. We race hard against each other, suffer together, but the most special thing is the friendship and camaraderie in the peloton. It's a huge honour to be mentioned in the same sentence as Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. It's a privilege to be going for the record next year. It's just an amazing feeling. The Champs-Elysees never disappoints. There's something magical about it when you spend three weeks thinking of this moment. It's amazing to see my wife and my son again after several months on the road. "
"Each time I've won the Tour, it has been so unique. All my victories are so special in their own ways. This one will be remembered as the closest and most hard-fought of them."
The view from Team Sky chief Sir Dave Brailsford
"Chris can go on - there's no reason to think that he can't. Physically he's got what it takes and I don't think that's going to diminish in the next year or so. He's getting better tactically and technically, so as long as that hunger continues and he keeps his health, then he'll be a force in this race for a good couple of seasons to come. This is the greatest victory I've been involved in and definitely the most satisfying."
Our view: Can he achieve history in Spain?
Racing against his rivals, and racing against the history books. Froome has made it clear his season was not merely focused on the Tour, but was always about the Tour and Le Vuelta. One down, and one to go. Sportspeople only get a few days to bask in the glory of their success before they ask themselves: what next? And what next for Froome begins on Saturday August 19 with a time trial in Nimes as Le Vuelta begins.
He is 4/5 favourite for overall victory, but is likely to be again be pushed hard with Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali, Fabio Aru, Ilnur Zakarin, Miguel Angel Lopez and Rigoberto Uran all clear and present dangers.
At the age of 32, there must be severe doubts whether or not Froome can peak again in such a short space of time. Not that age means much when you are surrounded by a formidable Team Sky support act.
Yet the Colombian Nairo Quintana of Movistar is five years younger, and has struggled with the demands of attempting to remain at the very top when riding consecutive Grand Tours. He won last year's Vuelta ahead of Froome having finished third behind him at the Tour. He then finished second at the Giro d'Italia before slumping to 12th in this year's Tour. Not surprisingly, Quintana is giving his one a miss after such a hectic schedule.
Form and consistency come and go even if class remains, but Froome is a supreme athlete whose focus to make the best of himself cannot be questioned. He has never won the Vuelta having finished second overall in 2011.
As he builds his body of work, he would like to add at least one Vuelta to his Le Tour cannon. This could be the year, but his best chance would come if he skipped the Tour, which is not going to happen any time soon. Not when he has designs on being the most prolific Tour winner in history.
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