Chris Froome said he felt “incredible” after winning his second Tour de France title on Sunday in a competition that has seen him accused of cheating, spat upon and doused with urine.
The 30-year-old Briton crossed the line on Paris’s Champs Elysees arm-in-arm with his Sky team-mates to clinch a second Grand Boucle crown following his 2013 success.
“This is such a great race, what can I say? I feel a lot of emotion,” said Froome after finishing the 21st leg of the competition.
“Of course it was a very, very difficult Tour, both on the bike and off it. I’m so happy to be here in yellow.
“There were a few difficulties, a few extra stresses outside of the race but that’s cycling in 2015.”
Froome has faced accusations of cheating since his last victory at the Grand Boucle two years ago, and complained that a spectator had thrown urine on him while shouting “dope” during the 14th stage of this year’s race.
His victory comes as doping accusations have cast a shadow over the sport of cycling, particularly after Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France a record seven times, was stripped of his titles after a long-running scandal.
The British press toasted Froome’s victory nonetheless in the Monday editions, with tabloid The Sun sporting the headline “I’m no cheat: Froome victory dig”, while the Telegraph chose “Believe in me”.
– ‘Suffered for his victory’ –
Germany’s Andre Greipel won the final stage of the competition, his fourth this year and 10th in total, ahead of Frenchman Bryan Coquard and Alexander Kristoff of Norway.
Colombian Nairo Quintana finished second overall with his Spanish Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde taking third, his best finish on the Tour at the age of 35.
“I’m not disappointed at all, I’ve confirmed my ability and my status within the team,” said Quintana.
“I’m only 25 so I have many more opportunities to try to win the Tour.
“(Froome) is a great rival, he suffered a lot for his victory and was very strong — he deserves it.”
Rain had rendered the cobbles at the finish on the Champs Elysees dangerous so organisers neutralised the race from the moment it reached Paris.
It meant the official timing was stopped just after riders passed the finishing line for the first time ahead of 10 laps of the famous Parisian avenue.
It allowed Froome and his team-mates — wearing a black kit with the traditional blue stripe replaced by a yellow one in hommage to their leader’s feat — to finish in a straight line, arm-in-arm, over a minute after the stage winner.
Having already won the Tour in 2013, crossing the finish line in the same way then because his lead over Quintana was also sufficiently large that time around, Froome became the first Briton to win the Grand Boucle for a second time.
Quintana finished at 1min 12sec overall with Valverde third more than five minutes back.
Last year’s winner Vincenzo Nibali finished fourth overall, ahead of two-time former champion Alberto Contador.
– Germans dominate sprints –
On the final stage, a 109.5-kilometre (68-mile) run from the Parisian suburb of Sevres, Greipel emphasised his sprint superiority at this Tour.
The 33-year-old had already won the second, fifth and 15th stages in sprint finishes, making it his best ever Tour and eclipsing the three stages he won in 2012.
“I’m looking forward to a rest now,” said the Lotto-Soudal rider.
“This Tour de France has been amazing for Lotto-Soudal, in five bunch sprints we won four of them.
“We can be really proud of this Tour de France. Next year is another Tour de France, but now I’m really happy and delighted with everything that happened in these last three weeks.”
It continued German sprint dominance at the Tour as between Greipel’s two outstanding seasons, compatriot Marcel Kittel was the top fast-man winning four stages in both 2013 and 2014.
Greipel’s expected rivals Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan could only manage sixth and seventh respectively on Sunday.
However, Sagan did win the sprinter’s green points jersey for the fourth year in a row, despite not managing to win a stage for the second successive year. – Agence France-Presse