- Tour de France, Stage 15
Froome conquers Ventoux to underline class
Chris Froome dully dominated the legendary Mont Ventoux to take a deeply impressive stage victory full of significance on Sunday, as he extended his lead in the Tour de France.
Froome, shielded by team-mates including Peter Kennaugh and Richie Porte for much of the intimidating 242.5 kilometre stage from Givors, made a couple of breathtaking bursts in the final 15km to underline his supremacy - the first to blow away general classification rival Alberto Contador, the second to overhaul breakaway man Nairo Quintana and claim the stage victory on one of the event's legendary climbs.
In the end Froome extended his lead over Contador by a minute and 40 seconds - even as the two-time former winner moved within nine seconds of overhauling Bauke Mollema to be the Team Sky rider's closest challenger.
"I didn't imagine this," Froome said. "This climb is so historic, it means so much to this race, I really did not see myself winning this stage today.
"My main objective was to get more of a buffer on the GC, but I can't believe [I won the stage]."
Ventoux has a fearsome reputation - it claimed the life of fabled British cyclist Tommy Simpson back in 1967, and nearly did the same to the legendary Eddy Merkx three years later - but Froome joined a short list of those to have come out on top against the beast with an intimidating display of climbing.
The Tour's longest stage saw Froome and his Team Sky supporters remain in the peloton, even as Quintana and Mikel Nieve Iturralde - now the two men nearest to Froome in the king of the mountains standings, as he also took possession of the polka dot jersey - broke free. Eventually the efforts proved too much for Kennaugh, with Porte dropping off the pace soon after.
But Froome used Porte's last semblance of energy to spring off the back of him and jump away from Contador, who had been keeping the yellow jersey wearer within his sights all day.
With Contador dropped, Froome then set his sights on Quintana - with Nieve falling back of his own accord as he and Contador ended up helping each other across the line. The Colombian made life harder for Froome but could not hold him off forever, with a second surge with just under two kilometres remaining ultimately proving decisive as the Brit won the stage by 29 seconds.
"The last two Ks [kilometres] he [Quintana] started fading, but I had a little bit left," Froome noted.
"I think he showed today he is the best climber in the world," Sir Dave Brailsford, the Team Sky principal added.
Stage 15 result
1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 5:48:45
2. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team +0:00:29
3. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi +0:01:23
4. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
5. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff +0:01:40
6. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team +0:01:43
8. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team +0:01:46
9. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team +0:01:53
10. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale +0:02:08
General classification after stage 15
1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 61:11:43
2. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team +0:04:14
3. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff +0:04:25
4. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff +0:04:28
5. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team +0:04:54
6. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team +0:05:47
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team +0:06:22
8. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha +0:07:11
9. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale +0:07:47
10. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp +0:08:28