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Chris Froome's solo Giro d'Italia victory ignites debate

As Chris Froome rode alone for over 80km, from the dirt roads of the Colle delle Finestre to the finish above Bardonecchia, there was a sense of astonishment amongst those watching the Giro d'Italia along the roadside, at the finish line and even amongst those at the team buses parked at the foot of the final climb.

From the moment Froome punched the air to win the stage, relegating Tom Dumoulin, who finished 3:23 down, again to second place 40 seconds down in the overall classification, the significance of Froome's performance was set in stone. With one mountain stage left to race before the final parade stage in Rome on Sunday, Froome appears set to win his third consecutive Grand Tour after taking the 2017 Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana. Nobody has done what Froome and Team Sky have done in the recent, modern history of the sport.

It is difficult to put Froome's triumph into context and compare it with similar performances. It is historic, especially after he struggled earlier in the race after crashing hard before the Jerusalem time trial.

Italian television quickly compared it to rides by Fausto Coppi in the forties and fifties by the way he attacked alone and then time trialled to victory. Others compared it to Floyd Landis' solo attack to Morzine at the 2006 Tour de France. The American had lost time the day before but went on a solo charge across the Alps to set up overall victory. Of course a week after the race, Landis tested positive and was eventually banned for doping.

While the circumstances are quite different, Froome and his lawyers continue to argue his salbutamol case as he races at the Giro d'Italia, hoping that an eventual guilty verdict will not cost him his victories at this race and last year's Vuelta.

Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford, who appeared at the Team Sky bus post-stage, is convinced Froome's result will stand the test of time, describing it as one of Team Sky's best ever moments.

"100 per cent, of course I do," Brailsford said when it was compared to Landis.

"Today was the best performance of his career, one of the best days in the team's history. Being able to take it on and animate like that was very enjoyable.

"Obviously right now it's the heat of the moment, you've got to stop and reflect a little bit but it feels like probably our best one-day victory really. We'll see what happens tomorrow and towards the end of the race but it was certainly spectacular."

Froome has won the Tour de France four times but he was on a high after his win and taking the pink jersey.

"I think that was one of the most amazing things I've done on the bike," Froome said. "It's great to ride like this. This is bike racing, this is what it is all about, especially in the Giro d'Italia."

Not everyone was as complimentary. An air if disbelief hung over the team buses as other riders realised how much time they had lost and how much Froome had made them suffer.

George Bennett didn't know the result of the stage when he arrived at the LottoNL-Jumbo bus and couldn't believe that Froome had taken the pink jersey.

"Did Froome stay away? No way!" Bennett said in astonishment when he was told that Froome won by three minutes and was also in the maglia rosa.

"He did a Landis. Jesus! Are you kidding me?"

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Domenico Pozzovivo finished 8:29 down on Froome and 5:23 down on Tom Dumoulin, Thibaut Pinot, Richard Carapaz and Miguel Angel Lopez after struggling to chase his overall rivals with Bennett. He slipped from third overall to sixth, at 8:03 down on Froome.

"The adjective I'd use to describe Froome's performance is 'mostruoso' - monstrous. If I look at my watts and think I finished eight minutes down then he did a huge ride, something incredible," Pozzovivo said.

Former rider and now Fabio Aru's coach Paolo Tiralongo watched Froome's victory on a small television screen in a UAE team car. Aru had finally quit the Giro d'Italia early in the stage after a terrible race.

Tiralongo is under pressure to explain why Aru struggled so much but had no problem with Froome's performance.

"I'm sure his ride will stay in the history of the sport because it came on one of the hardest stages of this year's race after three weeks of racing," Tiralongo said.

"We can only say chapeau because it was a while since we'd seen an attack like that turned the race upside down and give the winner the maglia rosa."

Tiralongo dismissed any comparison to Landis victory in the Tour de France.

"No, this is not like Landis' win. He's Chris Froome, he's not a donkey. He did a ride like Alberto Contador used to do."

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