Any time winter closes in and the year draws to a close, a period of reflection is encouraged, to contemplate what the previous 12 months has entailed and what it all means in a grander context.
This is only amplified when it’s the decade that is coming to an end, and in the world of cycling no-one has dominated the 2010s quite like Chris Froome has.
From a largely unremarkable period on the Pro-Continental circuit with Barloworld, during which Froome managed just 83rd at his debut Tour de France, he was signed by Sky in 2010 and the rest is, well, now history.
A retrospectively awarded debut Grand Tour victory at the 2011 Vuelta a España, after Juan José Cobo was disqualified earlier this year, was followed up by his second place to team-mate Bradley Wiggins at the 2012 Tour, with the Kenyan-born Brit making sure to show the world and his team that although he was playing servant this year, he would not settle for the same role again next year.
What followed was a remarkable run of six Grand Tour victories in six years, with his 2018 Giro d’Italia win resulting in the 34-year-old holding all three Grand Tour titles at the same time.
Froome’s rise hasn’t been without controversy, though. In 2017 it was revealed that he had returned an adverse analytical finding for salbutamol, which stemmed from a test at the 2017 Vuelta a España, where he had beaten Vincenzo Nibali to the red jersey by just over two minutes. Froome was eventually cleared by the UCI of any wrongdoing.
The British squad’s dominance of Grand Tours over the past decade provided a number of memorable moments for fans, and did a lot to bring new British spectators into the sport. As the book closes on an eventful 10 years in cycling, we’ve ranked the arguable rider of the decade’s 10 best victories.
10. Vuelta a España 2011, stage 17, Peña Cabarga
Chris Froome took his maiden Grand Tour stage victory in what would turn out to be his first ever overall victory too, albeit it was awarded eight years later when Juan José Cobo was stripped of the title due to a doping conviction.
Froome led Cobo under the 1km banner on stage 17 as they climbed to the summit of Peña Cabarga before the Spaniard overtook Froome, who wouldn’t give up and accelerated once more, taking the inside line around the final corner to pip Cobo to the line.
This victory, and the bonus seconds that came with it, saw Froome move to within 13 seconds of Cobo in the overall as Bradley Wiggins finished third.
9. Critérium du Dauphiné 2013, stage five, Valmorel
Froome’s first big win against one of the greats of the era. As the Sky rider and Contador closed in on Matthew Busche in the final kilometre, Froome’s final attack was too much for the Tinkoff rider, the Spaniard baring his teeth as Froome raised his hands across the finish line ahead.
This stage victory helped Froome surpass Rohan Dennis in the overall classification, which he would win ahead of team-mate Riche Porte as the Brit prepared for what would be his debut Tour victory in July.
8. Vuelta a España 2017, stage 16, individual time trial, Logroño
Before the start of the only individual time trial in the 2017 Vuelta a España, Froome led Vincenzo Nibali by a minute, a decent advantage but not insurmountable. The race against the clock held the key to Froome claiming what would at the time be his first Vuelta title.
Sitting in ninth place, Alberto Contador set the provisionally fastest time in the final time trial of his career before Ilnur Zakarin and Nibali just edged him out of the hot seat. Wilco Kelderman would then come through to take 30 seconds out of his GC rivals before Froome, last off the ramp put a further half a minute into the Dutchman’s time.
It was a complete display from the British rider, as he passed the first checkpoint 20 seconds down on Kelderman before catching up at the midway point before taking valuable seconds out of all of his competitors in the final section. The two minute advantage he held over Nibali in the overall classification would even gradually increase as Froome carried the red jersey to Madrid over the final few days.
7. Tour de France 2013, stage eight, Ax 3 Domaines
After helping Bradley Wiggins to the first ever British Tour de France victory in 2012, 2013 was Froome’s turn to shine. Stage eight featured the first Pyrenean stage and first summit finish of the year’s race, with Sky taking no time to show their intent to claim the overall classification.
Sky faced opposition from Alberto Contador and his Saxo Bank lieutenants, but Froome and Porte disposed of them on the climb to Ax 3 Domaines with Froome eventually finishing 50 seconds ahead of his Australian team-mate to take yellow, make sure there was no confusion this year over who was the strongest rider in the team, and lay down an early marker to his other rivals.
6. Tour de France 2015, stage 10, La Pierre-Saint-Martin
Another Tour, another first summit finish and another Froome/Porte one-two.
The first real test of the 2015 Tour, after Froome had crashed out during his defence of the title in 2014, took place on stage 10 after an opening week of cobblestones, echelons and crashes, one of which claimed yellow jersey wearer Tony Martin.
The breakaway’s 14-minute lead brought back to within touching distance as the GC favourites started the HC Col de Soudet climb up to the finish line.
After dispensing of his other rivals, Froome finally distanced Nairo Quintana with 6km to go, eventually winning by a minute.
This victory solidified Froome’s lead in yellow, having established himself with a strong stage one individual time trial, and the Brit would keep the leader’s jersey all the way to Paris over the final two weeks as he stepped up to the Champs-Élysées podium for the second time.
5. Tour de France 2012, stage seven, La Planche des Belles Filles
Froome’s first ever Tour de France stage win. Stage seven’s summit finish to La Planche des Belles Filles was the first real test for the overall contenders.
Froome, Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans were the final three left at the front of the race as they neared the top of the climb. Froome had done enough to make sure Wiggins would take the yellow jersey, a first for Team Sky, and so leapt from the trio with the finish line in sight to claim his first Tour stage victory.
Wiggins subsequently held onto yellow all the way to Paris to claim a first British Tour victory, winning two individual time trial stages on the way, and his hold on the lead only ever being challenged, mischievously so, by Froome himself.
4. Giro d’Italia 2018, stage 14, Monte Zoncolan
With 100,000 spectators reportedly lining the Monte Zoncolan, the growing British Grand Tour dominance finally arrived in Italy.
Sitting down in 12th, three minutes behind overall leader Simon Yates, Froome broke the elastic as he attacked a second time, with Yates then sensing the danger and forging ahead, the upcoming individual time trial and mere 50-second buffer to Tom Dumoulin at the front of his mind.
The rain poured as the Brit in the pink jersey chased down the four-time British Tour champion. It was dogged from both, the Italian fans cheering them on as Yates frantically scrambled to try and find Froome’s wheel, with Dumoulin, Miguel Ángel López and Thibaut Pinot giving chase behind.
Froome held on, though, by six seconds to take his first Giro stage victory, and moved up to fifth in the overall as he clinged on to the hope of clinching a third Grand Tour victory in a row.
3. Tour de France 2016, stage eight, Bagnères-de-Luchon
In what was almost becoming routine for Froome by this point, the first Pyrenean stage of the 2016 Tour once again offered the Brit the chance to attack his rivals and claim the yellow jersey.
After tackling the Tourmalet early on in the stage, Froome attacked on the downhill of the Col de Peyresourde, showing his tenacity and will to win. Froome finished 13 seconds ahead of Dan Martin, who led the group of favourites across the line, as Froome once again got a grasp of the maillot jaune and didn’t let go all the way to Paris, finishing more than four minutes ahead of his nearest rival Romain Bardet.
2. Tour de France 2013, stage 15, Mont Ventoux
After increasing his lead in yellow during the memorable stage 11 individual time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel, Ventoux presented the first of a final week of challenges if the Brit was to claim his first title in the 100th edition of the race.
Froome had only ridden up the fabled French climb once before in the months leading up to the Tour, alongside former pro and commentator Sean Kelly. But with 4km to go it was Froome vs Quintana, with Contador and Nibali chasing behind.
Froome and the Colombian worked well together, however, extending their lead over the Spanish duo behind.
With Quintana helping increase Froome’s lead in yellow as he sought to improve his own standing in the overall, you may have thought Froome would allow Quintana the stage win.
Ventoux is no normal stage win, though, and Froome attacked his former collaborator with 1.3km to go, gritting his teeth over the final few hundred metres in what was a gutsy performance on his way to his first Tour victory.
1. Giro d’Italia 2018, stage 19
Despite his impressive win on stage 14, Froome still trailed Simon Yates by more than three minutes and sat fourth in the GC at the start of stage 19.
With 80km to go, and his rivals not expecting it, Froome went off the front on his own in the foothills of the Colle delle Finestre, the highest peak of the 2018 Italian Grand Tour.
Yates then finally cracked, having held the pink jersey since stage six, he soon found himself six minutes down and out of the race.
With 60km to go, Dumoulin was in the virtual pink jersey by 1-25, the same amount of time Froome was further ahead up the road.
As Froome forged on ahead alone, what is considered one of the great comebacks in modern cycling history nearly came undone, as the Brit had to swerve to avoid a moto that had crashed inside a tunnel.
The Sky rider was left unfazed, as he went into the virtual overall lead with 30km to go, with Dumoulin cracking with 6km to the summit finish.
Froome finished three minutes ahead of Richard Carapaz, the next rider across the line, in what is one of the most remarkable rides the sport has ever seen.
Crucially, Froome had opened up a 40 second lead over Dumoulin in the GC, with Froome riding into Rome two days later in pink to complete his hat-trick of Grand Tour victories.
Froome attacks with 80km to go, as Yates finds himself six minutes down and cracked.
It takes some victory to beat winning on Ventoux in the Tour de France’s yellow jersey, and this ride is possibly the only one that will ever come close.