There is nothing really remarkable about Chris Froome’s pathway to Tour de France champion – unless you haven’t been following him that closely, writes Anthony Tan from Annecy-Semnoz.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Paris. July 22, 2012.

It was about 5:45 p.m. or thereabouts. Following my post-stage wrap with SBS Television's perennial Tour de France host Mike Tomalaris, I was scuttling about, scampering up and down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées like a headless chook, trying to speak to as many of the 153 riders who finished the ninety-ninth edition of La Grande Boucle as I could.

Naturally, I went over to the Team Sky bus, though not so much for interviews but to take a step back and observe. I caught Bradley Wiggins jumping on top of a team car, arms raised, and draped in the Union Jack. His fans loved it. I loved it – quintessential Wiggo, it was.

Scanning the surrounds, I caught a glimpse of all his teammates except one.

Chris Froome, the guy who finished second but who many – including himself – thought he could've come first.

It's no secret Wiggins and Froome aren't the best of friends. "Chris likes people who are transparent and don't mince words. People who he doesn't have to guess what's going on in their heads. Wiggins is a bit of a mystery to him and he struggles with that," Michelle Cound, Froome's fiancée, told the London Daily Mail, in an interview published on Friday.

It must've been terribly uncomfortable for him that Sunday night, having to toast a winner, especially when you thought that could have – should have – been you. Good thing Michelle, who he plans to marry next year, was there for him, like she always is.

Even if Wiggins had ridden the Tour, however, I doubt the leadership issue would've presented a problem.

It would've been sorted after the stage to Ax 3 Domaines, when the Kenyan-born Brit put the first nail in the coffin, asserting himself as the top climbing dog in this year's race.

This was never a Tour for Wiggins Рin recent years, I can't remember a final week so gruelling Рand deep down, the Kid from Kilburn knew it. Plus there's the unwavering loyalty of Froome's chief lieutenant and best friend, Richie Porte, who, up hill and down dale, has remained by his side at critical points throughout this 3,403.5 kilometre journey, save for two bad days; one to Bagn̬res-de-Bigorre, the day after Ax 3 Domaines, the other on a windswept day to Saint-Amand-Montrond.

Still, even if the 2013 parcours had been a carbon copy of yesteryear, in my mind, Froome would've won.

Over the past three weeks, he's showed many things. Though perhaps the most noteworthy is his all-round ability. He's a complete rider, a natural Grand Tourer. Two of the toughest mountain stages, and both individual time trials – the latter, he chose not "to empty the tank" and was in fact prepared to lose thirty to sixty seconds to his nearest rival – is indicative of a man who, conceivably, could win a number of Tours de France in years to come.

For me, Froome's rise and rise to likely Tour champion has not been meteoric or suspicious.

After overcoming, or at least suppressing, the tropical bug bilharzia, and since joining Sky Procycling in 2010, this has been his first shot at leading a Grand Tour outright. Quite possibly, had it not been for Wiggins, he would've already won the Tour and Vuelta a España.

He is on a team that analysed every kilometre of the parcours; every stretch of road, every turn, every climb, and reduced the variables – what Garmin-Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters once dubbed "the X-factor" – to a minimum.

Consider the competition, too, in this year's race. Or, more precisely, the lack of it.

Last year, while riding for Wiggins, he beat this year's Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali by three minutes. He bettered Tejay van Garderen, fifth in 2012, by 7'43. Cadel Evans, seventh last year – 12'28 was the margin between he and Froome. As for Laurens Ten Dam, who came 13th in 2012, Froome spanked by more than an hour.

Other than the maillot jaune, the only guy in this year's top ten that rode last July was Alejandro Valverde. In Paris, he'll finish eighth overall, but last year, unapologetic Alejandro came home in 20th place – 39 minutes 5 seconds behind Froome.

As for runner-up Nairo Quintana, he's all of 23 years young and a Tour debutant. You'd expect a Froome dog in top form to beat him, precocious as the Angel from Boyacá is, by five minutes, wouldn't you?

Essentially, Team Sky has turned the Tour de France into a scientific experiment. And, based on what we've seen the last two summers, it appears they've found a winning formula.

Yes, it's not pretty, and goes against the romantic grain associated with the Tour, rubbing many die-hard fans up the wrong way, who favour great exploits over great strategy and infinitesimal attention to detail (I've refrained from saying 'marginal gains' till now), but Sky don't care.

Not if it wins them the greatest prize of all.