Chris Froome with the Giro d'Italia trophy. Picture: AFP
Chris Froome with the Giro d'Italia trophy. Picture: AFP

Grand slam: Froome rides into cycling history

CHRIS Froome won the Giro d'Italia on Sunday to join cycling greats Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault with his third consecutive Grand Tour victory.

The four-time Tour de France champion had no trouble in maintaining his 46-second lead over defending champion Tom Dumoulin in the mostly ceremonial final stage through historic Rome.

"It's great to soak up the atmosphere here in Rome," Froome said. "I was surely not disappointed by the crowd and the monuments. I need a bit of time to reflect but this race has been incredible. For any cyclist, it's a dream to have all three Grand Tour leader's jerseys. I'm still pinching myself. I can't believe I'm here in the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey)."

 

Froome has now won the Tour de France, Spanish Vuelta and Giro in succession, becoming only the third cyclist to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time and the first to achieve the feat since the Vuelta was moved to the end of the season in 1995.

Merckx won four straight between 1972 and 1973 and Hinault took three in a row in 1982 and 1983.

Irish rider Sam Bennett won the final stage, a 115-kilometer (71-mile) leg of 10 laps around a circuit over the capital's cobblestones, in a mass sprint alongside the Roman Forum. It was Bennett's third victory in this year's race. Elia Viviani, who crossed second, lost the lead after running into problems with tire grip on the slippery cobblestones.

 

Chris Froome crosses the line with his Team Sky teammates.
Chris Froome crosses the line with his Team Sky teammates.

 

With riders concerned about treacherous road conditions due to the uneven cobblestones, the stage was neutralised after three laps, meaning the final overall times were recorded after a third of the way through the stage. The route took cyclists past the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Circus Maximus and Baths of Caracalla.

Miguel Angel Lopez, a Colombian with Astana, finished third overall, 4:57 behind Froome.

Thibaut Pinot withdrew before the stage, having cracked in Saturday's final mountain leg and lost his podium spot. The French rider spent the night in a hospital with a lung problem.

It's Froome's sixth Grand Tour win overall and he becomes the seventh rider to win all three Grand Tours over their careers.

 

Chris Froome, centre, is flanked by Tom Dumoulin, left, and Colombia's Miguel Angel.
Chris Froome, centre, is flanked by Tom Dumoulin, left, and Colombia's Miguel Angel.

 

The Kenyan-born British rider rode a special pink-coloured bike for the final stage, while his Team Sky teammates had pink handlebars.

Froome finished more than 15 minutes behind Bennett, crossing the line arm in arm with six teammates.

Froome arrived at the Giro with big hopes but was not a threat early on after crashing in training before the opening time trial, losing time in a split on stage four, and injuring himself again in a second crash four days later.

But he started to climb back up the standings by winning Stage 14 up Monte Zoncolan - one of the toughest climbs in Europe - then cemented his place in cycling lore with an 80-kilometer breakaway on the race's most arduous mountain leg in Stage 19 to erase more than a three-minute deficit and take the pink jersey.

However, Froome is racing under the cloud of a potential ban after a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol that was twice the permitted level. It remains unclear when the International Cycling Union will rule on the case. Still, Froome is intent on matching another record with a fifth Tour title in July.