Chris Froome finishes Tour de France Stage 20 in third, retaining his more than five minutes lead before Sunday’s largely ceremonial final ride to Paris. He effectively wins the race, becoming the second consecutive British champion.
Only an accident or other freak mishap could stop Froome from winning the 100th Tour, a year after another British competitor, Bradley Wiggins, won the 99th.
Froome dramatically finished Stage 20 on Saturday, where he raced up the final steep climb that was rate HC or “Hors Categorie,” meaning it’s considered too difficult to classify. He rode past ski lifts and ski slopes in the Alps to Annecy-Semnoz, completing the 125-kilometer (78-mile) trek, the last significant obstacle Froome needed to overcome before Sunday’s easy ride.
Nairo Quintana of Colombia won the podium and moved up to second overall.
Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain came in just 17 seconds behind Quintana. He moved up to third overall.
Froome maintains the first overall, leading both Quintana and Rodriguez by more than five minutes.
Froome told French television that when he passed the sign showing 2 kiometers (about 1 mile) to go on Saturday’s final climb, “for the first time I realized that it was almost won.”
“It was hard today,” said the 28-year-old cyclist. “Rodriguez and Quintana raced very strongly.”
Sunday “will be a day for sprinters on the Champs-Elysees. For us, it is done.”
Quintana’s win at Stage 20 secured him the spotted jersey awarded to riders who pick up the most points on mountain climbs. He also retained the white jersey as the Tour’s best young rider.
“I couldn’t ask for more,” he said in tears at his news conference as stage winner, according to AP. “I got nearly everything. It was fabulous. It’s a very special day in Colombia. A big party and the whole of Colombia is celebrating.”
Sunday’s 133-kilometer (82-mile) trek starts in Versailles and will end on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Setting off in the late afternoon, the riders have two small humps to climb before they reach the finish line, ending the 100th Tour.