Chris Froome's stage 18 Tour de France time trial victory has all but ensured a third crown for the Team Sky rider and also secured the 31-year-old his third Cyclingnews' Rider of the Day award. First awarded the prize at the Criterium du Dauphine, Froome picked up his second prize on stage 11 and has added a third for blitzing the 17km uphill time trial from Sallanches to Megève.
Having finished second to Giant-Alpecin's Tom Dumoulin in the stage 13 test against the clock, Froome turned the tables to claim the win 21 seconds ahead of the Dutch champion for his second stage win of the 2016 Tour. Having announced pre-race that he was looking to peak for the third week, Froome backed up his words with his deepest win yet into a final week of a grand tour.
"I didn't expect to beat Tom today," Froome said. "I think that pacing was key today. I started off steady and really controlled that first part and then just gave it everything I had over the top and through the last part. I'm really happy with that [performance]."
Equipment choice was also a contributing factor in Froome's win as he opted for the full time trial set up while his rivals opted for a variety of set ups that included clip on bars and rear-disc wheels.
"The equipment choice was paramount today, but I also had to have the legs to ride the equipment choice as well as possible," Froome said of his choice. "I'm extremely grateful to have the support team behind me to help me with my decisions. When I looked at the parcours, I thought that I should use a road bike but after their analysis, we decided to go with the full TT set-up. With the Pinarello TT bike, we were able to save a lot of weight there so that I was able to ride a TT bike and not have to worry about kilograms. I was able to use a TT bike to get up the climb."
With the Tour time trial ledger at one apiece, Dumoulin and Froome head to Rio as the two stand out favourites to claim gold in the 54.5km Wednesday August 10 time trial. Before the duo resume their growing rivalry, Froome will be fully focused on wrapping up his third Tour win in four years.
Zeb Woodpower says: "If there was any doubt that Chris Froome was the strongest GC rider of the 2016 Tour, Peter Sagan is of course the top rider in the race, he erased those suspicions with a blistering ride to Megève for his seventh career win at La Grande Boucle. While Froome's stage win in Bagnères-de-Luchon, set up by his attack over the Col de Peyresourde, was unexpected, his win today was a rather straight forward affair to all but confirm that he will join Philippe Thys (1913, 1914, & 1920), Louison Bobet (1953, 1954, & 1955) and Greg LeMond (1986, 1989, &1990) in becoming a three time winner of the race.
"With two key mountain stages to come before arriving in Paris, Froome is focused on staying "away from any big incidents" but should he find himself in a position to put further time into his rivals, an attack for a stage win would be one of the least surprising facets in a Tour that saw the maillot jaune claim a Strava segment on Mont Ventoux on foot. After two calculated Tour wins in 2013 and 2015, this year has seen a new and exciting version of Froome and I doubt we've seen the last of this re-invention at the 2016 Tour."