A humble Chris Froome accepted his place in Tour de France annals today as a four-time winner, but finds it unbelievable to be named in the same sentence as cycling legends like Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil.
Team Sky‘s star blasted through the Marseille streets on Saturday afternoon to confirm his top spot in the closely fought general classification battle, before collecting his final yellow jersey in Paris on Sunday.
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“It’s a huge honour to be named in the same sentence as the greats of the Tour de France history,” Froome said when asked if he was aiming for five wins.
“I’m just taking it one race at a time. I certainly have a new found appreciation for just how difficult it was for those guys to win five Tours. It hasn’t been easy and this has been the closest title of my career.”
Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernhard Hinault and Miguel Indurain won the Tour de France five times each. When his win is confirmed tomorrow, Froome will be the only cyclist with four titles, moving clear of three riders with three titles each including American Greg LeMond.
Froome established himself as a Grand Tour rider racing to second place in the 2011 Vuelta a España. He rode in support of Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and then began winning his titles. He counts four of the famous blue porcelain vase trophies from 2013, 2015 and 2016 already.
“I’m not much of a person to look back, but the first time, the novelty being a Tour winner was massive. To come back and win again made it count even more. And to do it last year, two in a row, that was a big drive for me.
“Now the fourth, the third in a row, is just… I never would have dreamed of being up there and being named with the likes of Merckx, Anquetil and Indurain. It’s just big to be there,” he continued.
“I only started when Basso and Armstrong were going at it. I never even watched those Tours of Merckx and Indurain. I probably don’t even know the history of those guys.
Watch: Chris Froome – How I won the 2016 Tour de France
“I’m not a big person to choose a role model, everyone would agree with me when they say I have a unique style on the bike! That’s how I feel. I set my mind to something and go for it. I have a newfound respect for those guys now having won four and know how hard it is.”
Froome is expected to challenge for the Vuelta a España title next month. He hinted at possibly riding Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2018, but is most likely to focus on joining the exclusive five-time winner club with the four greats.
“I’m definitely getting older, but at the same time, each year, I like to think I’m developing and becoming more of a complete rider. I hope that I am still improving as a rider.”