Chris Froome's journey to become a Tour de France winner is all but finished, having conquered the last mountain stage today ahead of the flat run to Paris tomorrow. He said after completing the Annecy-Semnoz mountain-top finish today, it had been a long-term goal that was stated when he joined Sky in 2010.
"When I first joined Sky, they asked me what I wanted to achieve. I told them some short- and medium-term goals, and some long-term goals. Being able to target the Tour was one of those longer-term goals," Froome said. "To be in the yellow jersey now, three years later; I can't say I would've seen that coming."
Froome, 28, spoke to a packed tent of journalists only two kilometres from the summit. Growing up in Kenya, he started cycling slower than other pros, but he has been rapidly building for this day.
Sky helped him manage his parasitic disease, bilharzia and keep him on track despite early setbacks in 2010.
"The first time I thought I could realistically become a GC rider to win or contend was in the 2011 Vuelta a España," Froome continued. "Until then I found it difficult to have consistent performances. I had good days, but I was never able to back it up all the way through, but that Vuelta gave me a lot of confidence, a lot of belief that I belonged in this group of GC riders."
Froome's Tour winning performance was even more difficult as it came on the heels of the Lance Armstrong scandal last winter. Armstrong lost all seven of his Tour titles when proved a dope cheat, something journalists are not quick to forget. Several times this Tour Froome had to answer questions about his performances and explain that they are clean.
"It's been a challenge, but it's understandable," Froome said. "Whoever was going to be in this yellow jersey was going to come under the same amount of scrutiny and I can understand that. I'm also one of those guys who was let down by the sport."
Froome races the final stage of the Tour into Paris tomorrow. Afterwards, he travels to Belgium and Holland for a round of lucrative criteriums. He has had little time to think about the remainder of his season, let alone 2014 and beyond.
"The Tour de France has to be the pinnacle of our cycling calendar and naturally it becomes the most sought after victory to have, the yellow jersey, but having said that, the decision is very much based on the parcours and how suited to me and my teammates, and the decision of the team. I'd love to come back to the Tour every year, but that decision has to be made based on the route and the team's decision."
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