Froome came the closest of anyone in recent years after taking the overall victory at the Giro d’Italia in May and taking third at the Tour de France, after he vaulted Primoz Roglic back onto the podium following the penultimate stage 20 time trial. However, the effort had taken its toll and he was visibly struggling to maintain the pace with his rivals, an unusual sight in the past few seasons.
"I still believe that it's possible to do the double at the moment. I won three consecutive Grand Tours and I should be third tomorrow, if nothing goes wrong. I still believe that it's possible but it's not going to be this year that's for sure," Froome said in a post-stage press conference.
Seven riders have done it but it has been 20 years since a rider was able to win both the Giro and the Tour in the same season, with Marco Pantani the last to do it in 1998. Froome and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) become the first riders since Pantani to make the podium since Pantani's run all those years ago, adding to Froome's belief that the Giro-Tour double is possible again.
"Interesting that you mentioned Tom as well, for him to be second in both Grand Tours, I think that it shows it is possible to do both of the races at a really high level, which only leads me to believe it is possible to do both of them," Froome said. "For me, it was a big factor in making the decision to do the Giro this year, given that there's an extra week because of the World Cup. That was a part of my decision in trying to do the double. I still believe that it is possible but it takes some doing."
Froome refused to be drawn on whether he would be open to swapping his Giro victory for a record-equalling Tour de France.
"I'm not going to even ask myself that question. It is what it is and I can't change it," he said. "I'm extremely grateful to win the Giro this year and that's a massive goal for me, to have won all three Grand Tours now is also something I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life now."
Rollercoaster was the word that Froome used to describe his title defence, after a bruising three weeks of racing. It got off on the wrong foot when crashed on the opening stage after a movement in the bunch sent him off the road. He was able to brush himself off and carry on but he had lost 51 seconds and would crash again before the week was out, on the cobbled stage.
There were some signed in the early Alpine stages that Froome was not on top form but he appeared to be relatively in control until the race moved into the Pyrenees. The cracks started to show on stage 17 to the Col du Portet and an incident with a gendarme added to what was already a bad day. He was bumped off the podium on Friday’s final mountain stage but turn things around in the time trial to move past Roglic back onto the podium and come close to the stage win.
"I’ve had quite a few emotions throughout this race, moments of disappointment, crashing, moments of joy when we’ve won stages and taken the yellow jersey," Froome said. "That’s bike racing. Like any Grand Tour, this has been a rollercoaster with ups and downs. Today, I was really grateful to have good legs. I had one or two seconds less than I’d hoped to have, but at the end of the day, it was a lot better than I’d fought yesterday. Yesterday, I felt like I was hanging on. I’m glad to be back on the podium and standing up there with Geraint will be a really proud moment for me."
While Froome was not able to claim his fifth Tour de France title, Team Sky took their sixth with their third different rider Geraint Thomas. Understandably, Froome came into the race as their main leader while Thomas was described as their backup plan should things go wrong with Froome. In the final week, his own ambitions had to take a backseat.
In 2012, when Froome looked stronger than his own leader Bradley Wiggins, there were clear tensions between Team Sky’s top two riders. Froome says that there were no such issues this time around.
"Because we've been teammates and friends for so long, it did make it easier for us to communicate openly to each other before the race, after the race and I think that we were always very open and honest," Froome said. "Not only have I been a teammate of Geraint over the last 10 years but I've been good friends with him over the last 10 years. We do a lot of our training together, we live quite close by, we spend a lot of time together, seeing how he's developed over the years, he's been a massive part of my Tour de France victories over the years.
"To see him coming now in the shape that he was at the Tour de France, it was clear to me that if he was going to be on the podium then he was going to be on the top step. He's managed to do it. It makes me really proud and I'm glad that I was here to be a part of that and standing on that podium on the Champs Elysees tomorrow."
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