Froome climbs to first Tour de France stage win
Event: Tour de France Stage 7
When: 7 July 2012
Where: La Planche des Belles Fillesurne
How it unfolded
The first mountaintop finish of any Tour is the first real chance to assess the credentials and form of the leading contenders.
The 2012 Tour was no different and even if the final climb to La Planche des Belles Fillesurne was not especially long, at just under six kilometres, two distinct ramps of over 11% gradient ensured that it would give the top riders the opportunity to test themselves. But would they give it everything?
In the event, Team Sky answered that question with an emphatic “yes” as they drove the peloton up the final climb at a high pace. Having softened the race up, the real damage was actually done in the closing couple of kilometres as Yellow Jersey Fabian Cancellara and a host of “names” wilted as Chris Froome led Bradley Wiggins ever upwards.
By the time the finish came into sight, only defending champion Cadel Evans and Italian Vincenzo Nibali were still with the Sky duo. Evans attacked as the road flattened out in the last hundred metres, but Froome countered and rode powerfully to the stage win whilst Wiggins gritted his teeth and slotted in behind the Australian to claim third and with it the yellow jersey.
What they said
“I was expecting someone to surge on that flat bit, and Cadel came through. I jumped onto his wheel. I could see him slowly hurting as the climb got steeper. that was fantastic for us.
Having Bradley right there two seconds behind, We couldn't ask for more. It puts the team in a fantastic position going forward. I'm speechless. That was a dream come true. I never thought of winning a stage here. I'm chuffed to bits.”
Why should this be the British Cycling's Ride of the Year 2012?
This was the stage during which Bradley Wiggins showed that he had the firepower, both personally and within his team, to win the Tour. With his time trial expertise beyond question, the main focus at the start of the race was on his climbing ability relative to the other leading contenders. This stage showed that he had little to fear in that department.
However, Froome’s ride was arguably even more significant. He showed that not only did Sky have perhaps the best climber in the race on their team, but that he was also back to the form which had proved so impressive and revelatory in the 2011 Vuelta.
Froome was suddenly a great “plan B” should Wiggins wilt later in the race. But he was also making a clear statement of his own cycling ability and potential. The Vuelta performance was no longer a “one-off”. A future British Grand Tour winner had emerged before our eyes, just as another took the overall lead in the race. It was one of the happiest days to be a British cycling fan in a long summer of happy days.