Chris Froome has won a career third and Sky’s fourth Tour de France title all within five years, leading others to contemplate the reasons behind the determined success on the biggest stage.
Froome marked a processional ride from Chantilly to Paris with beer, rather than the traditional champagne, as race leader on Sunday, flanked by a full quota team he described as the strongest the squad has assembled for the race.
Sky has cleverly recruited in recent years, drafting climbers that popularly considered could be leaders at any other outfit. The services of Wout Poels, Mikel Nieve, Sergio Henao and the host of other superb support riders this year was not lost on the yellow jersey, or his rivals.
“I think by far this has been our strongest line-up at the Tour de France and I think it’s been for several reasons,” Froome said.
“The team plans for the Giro didn’t really work out and for that reason we were able to take some guys from the Giro program and really make sure the Tour de France team was heavily loaded with climbers. That was imperative to this year’s race given it would be decided in the climbs.”
The 31-year-old Froome has previously pointed to the single-minded focus of the team, which was again wholly dedicated to his cause at the 103rd edition, as an advantage, on top of its ‘marginal gains’ moniker. Sky rarely if ever featured in an escape during the race, instead opting to deploy its arsenal around Froome, who rode more offensively at the beginning of the Tour.
Contrarily, in past editions the team has had dual leaders, with sprinters or opportunists afforded chances along the general classification (GC) leader.
Sky’s budget has also been attributed to its success with the likes of Tinkoff team owner Oleg Tinkov venturing to say it effectively gives the outfit the power to sign the best of its competition. In a pre-Tour blog published on Cyclingnews, Tinkov claimed that "we're not operating on a level playing field... Sky (with its super budget) has been splashing out on new, talented riders and this means that they have a very strong team overall. This will give them some edge. But we will kick their ass anyway."
In the end, Tinkov was half right and he certainly diagnosed the advantage that Team Sky possess over the majority of the peloton.
“How it compares with (other) teams in the past, I really think we’ve been right there, we’ve had an extremely competitive team,” Froome said. “Even though we didn’t win the team GC, if you look at GC we’ve got four guys in the top 20 and that speaks for itself. Even though everyone is giving everything for one cause we still ended up with four guys in the top 20 and that’s quite an accomplishment.”
Froome noted the commitment of team-mates in a winner’s press conference on Saturday evening, for example acknowledging key lieutenant Sergio Henao, who missed the birth of his firstborn son to continue on to Paris.
“I have no regrets from this year’s Tour de France,” said Froome, who won two stages in addition to overall. “I’ve done absolutely everything I can to win this race, on flats, descents, time trials, I’ve done everything I can.”
In the end, it was that willingness to compete on every single stage that saw Froome take the win, as he put paid to his rivals on the descents, in the time trials and up the climbs to emerge with one of the most complete victories in recent memory.