Chris Froome will not win the Tour de France.
On the high slopes of the Saint-Lary-Soulan climb, something happened that fans or Froome’s competitors haven’t ever seen at the Tour de France: Froome broke. After marking an early move by Primož Roglič, it seemed that Froome was destined to ride off into the clouds and finally put an end to what always sort of felt like a temporary spell in the yellow jersey for Geraint Thomas. Instead, that move was quickly reeled back in, and Froome spent the next 10 or so kilometers quietly slipping further back in the group of general classification contenders. He usually sits right behind Wout Poels, but all of a sudden, he was hanging on by a thread at the back. Commentators speculated that he was simply gauging Tom Dumoulin’s fitness, but no, he was gassed. A few kilometers from the summit, he bonked. His rivals rode off into the sky as Froome stared at his stem and suffered through it.
Froome eventually rode in around one minute behind Thomas and Dumoulin thanks to the extraordinary pacemaking work of 21-year-old Colombian climbing ace Egan Bernal. Froome’s now in third place, 2:31 behind Thomas, though more critically, he’s only 16 seconds ahead of Roglič for the final podium spot. His ambitions of winning his fifth Tour de France are toast, while his teammate Thomas looks like a lock to bring home the yellow jersey. Froome will spend the last three road stages supporting his new leader and doing everything he can to hold off the Slovenian.
Froome’s participation in the Giro d’Italia seems like it’s finally caught up with his legs. Remember, Froome only trailed Thomas at all because of ticky-tacky time losses due to weird crashes and other delays, and even though Thomas won two consecutive mountain stages, he still appeared ready to defer to Froome’s experience in the crucial third weeks of Grand Tours. Losing at the line on the Alpe d’Huez was never that significant, since Froome’s a weak sprinter, but today’s 48-second loss is the true death knell for Froome’s shot at making history. His strange doping case may not have kept him out of the Tour, as organizers wanted, but the way he responded to it and altered his season effectively cost him a true shot at the yellow jersey.
Thomas looks set to win a rather unlikely Tour de France title after happily supporting Froome and even letting him have a go at winning the race early on the final climb today. He was never anything less than a stellar teammate, and it’s hard to find any flaws in how Thomas rode this Tour de France. Dumoulin could always mount a wild attack on Friday, but Sky now have Froome in the fold to chase him down until his legs give out. This one’s over, and even though a Team Sky rider will probably wear yellow into Paris, the legions of French fans who flocked to the Tour to jeer Froome will probably be satisfied that he was finally beaten.