ROME – Winning three Grand Tours consecutively was already enough to cement Chris Froome’s place in cycling history.
The way in which he won this Giro d’Italia, though, adds an extra dimension to the achievement.
The Kenyan-born British rider bounced back from two early crashes to storm into the lead two days from the end with an 80-kilometer (50-mile) solo attack in the three-week race’s toughest stage.
“I think the manner of the victory is the thing that impresses everybody. That’s the thing that will stay in everybody’s mind. This is going to be such a signature victory of his career,” Team Sky director Dave Brailsford told The Associated Press as Froome wrapped up the title Sunday.
“The manner that he won this race was absolutely incredible. It’s what bike racing is all about – it’s exciting, it’s spectacular,” Brailsford added. “I’m sure it will define his career over time.”
For a rider who had hitherto been known for his calculating, mechanical style, the attack up a gravel road so far from the finish on Stage 19 was “crazy,” as he himself described it.
“It just felt so raw,” Froome said. “This is for me what bike racing is about.”
Froome has now won the Tour de France, Spanish Vuelta and Giro in succession, becoming only the third cyclist to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time and the first to achieve the feat since the Vuelta was moved to the end of the season in 1995.
Eddy Merckx won four straight between 1972 and 1973 and Bernard Hinault took three in a row in 1982 and 1983.
“This was always going to be the biggest challenge of my career,” Froome said, alluding to the “unpredictable” nature of the Giro. “But now I’ve done the triple and there’s no greater award for a professional cyclist.”
Froome, a four-time Tour de France champion, had no trouble in maintaining his 46-second lead over defending champion Tom Dumoulin in the mostly ceremonial final stage through historic Rome. He rode a special pink-colored bike for the final stage, while his Team Sky teammates had pink handlebars.
Afterward, Froome announced that his wife is pregnant and due in August. He dedicated the victory to his daughter to be.
Froome arrived at the Giro with big hopes but was not a threat early on after crashing in training before the opening time trial, losing time in a split on stage four, and injuring himself again in a second crash four days later.
But he started to climb back up the standings by winning Stage 14 up Monte Zoncolan – one of the toughest climbs in Europe – then erased more than a three-minute deficit and claimed the pink jersey with his attack on the Colle delle Finestre.
“This one is quite special,” Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said. “It was a totally different race than we’re used to.”
Froome is racing under the cloud of a potential ban after a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol that was twice the permitted level. It remains unclear when the International Cycling Union will rule on the case.
“I had every right to be here and as I’ve said before I know I’ve done nothing wrong,” Froome said.
It was Froome’s sixth Grand Tour win overall and he becomes the seventh rider to win all three Grand Tours over their careers. He’s also the first Briton to win the Giro.
Irish rider Sam Bennett won the final stage, a 115-kilometer (71-mile) leg of 10 laps around a circuit over the capital’s cobblestones, in a mass sprint alongside the Roman Forum. It was Bennett’s third victory in this year’s race.
With riders concerned about treacherous road conditions due to the uneven cobblestones, the stage was neutralized after three laps, meaning the final overall times were recorded after a third of the way through the stage.
The route took cyclists past the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Circus Maximus and Baths of Caracalla.
Froome finished more than 15 minutes behind Bennett, crossing the line arm in arm with six teammates.
Up next for Froome: an attempt at a record-tying fifth Tour title in July.
“That’s my next objective,” he said.
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