Chris Froome celebrates third Tour de France title with beer and Champagne

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Sharing beer and champagne with teammates, Chris Froome celebrated his third Tour de France title in four years on Sunday.

The Kenyan-born British rider finished safely at the back of the main pack in the final stage, arm-in-arm with his teammates during the mostly ceremonial leg ending on the Champs-Elysees.

Immediately after finishing, Froome was greeted by his wife and infant son, who he took in his arms.

Andre Greipel of Germany won the 21st leg in a sprint finish.

At the start of the stage, Froome dropped back to his Team Sky car to collect bottles of beer and distributed them to each of his eight teammates for a celebratory round.

Then it was time for the traditional flute of champagne.

Froome rode a yellow bike to go with his yellow jersey, helmet, gloves and shoes. His teammates had yellow stripes on their jerseys and yellow handlebars on their bikes.

Froome also still had bandages on his right knee and elbow, the result of a downhill crash two days ago.

Having begun the stage with more than a four-minute advantage over Romain Bardet of France, Froome and his teammates dropped back just before the finish and he lost some of his margin.

Froome ended up 2 minutes, 52 seconds ahead of Bardet, while Nairo Quintana of Colombia finished third overall, 3:08 back.

Froome, who also won the Tour in 2013 and 2015, became the first rider to defend the title since Miguel Indurain won the last of his five straight in 1995. Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven consecutive titles for doping.

The 21st stage got off to a picture-postcard start as the peloton rode by the perfectly manicured gardens of the Chateau de Chantilly.

The mostly flat 113-kilometer (70-mile) stage concluded with eight laps of a circuit in downtown Paris, finishing on the cobblestones below the Arc de Triomphe.

Greipel narrowly edged world champion Peter Sagan, who was coming on with a late charge.

Alexander Kristoff of Norway crossed third.

It was Greipel’s first stage win in this Tour. The rider nicknamed ‘The Gorilla’ won four stages last year.

It was a difficult stage for the Etixx-Quick Step team. First, three-time time trial world champion Tony Martin abandoned the race due to a left-knee injury, then Marcel Kittel, the sprinter who won Stage 4, had a mechanical problem and dropped behind as he was forced to change bikes.

Kittel slammed a wheel to the ground in frustration as he waited for the change. He eventually caught up to the peloton but wasn’t a factor in the sprint.

Mark Cavendish, the British sprinter who won four stages in this Tour, abandoned the race before the Alps.

 

2019 Tour will honor 1st victory of 5-time champion Merckx

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BRUSSELS (AP) The start of the 2019 Tour de France will be all about honoring Eddy Merckx in his hometown of Brussels.

Merckx, known as “The Cannibal” for his ferocious taste for victory, won the first of his five Tours in 1969. Half a century later, the Belgian great still sees it as one of the major accomplishments for a cyclist generally considered to be the greatest ever.

“I wore the yellow jersey 96 times. It is the best memory of my career. It still gives me goosebumps,” Merckx said during Tuesday’s presentation of the Grand Depart – the opening weekend of the three-week Tour.

Merckx also won a record 34 Tour stages and is among four riders who won the Tour a record five times. French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain are the others.

Tour organizers said it will be the second time the race will set off from the Belgian capital, which hosted the race’s Grand Depart in 1958.

The 2019 race will also mark 100 years since the race leader’s yellow jersey was created.

When it comes to the first two stages on July 6-7, the iconic Wall of Geraardsbergen climb should take center stage.

The 192-kilometer (119-mile) first stage of the Tour will have the Wall, for decades the toughest climb in the Ronde of Flanders classic. The Wall will come early but the stage, which makes a big loop south of Brussels, is still set up for a sprint finish close to the royal palace.

It will also have its stretch of famed Flemish cobblestones and will pass through the hometown of soccer player Eden Hazard.

The second stage will be a 28-kilometer team time trial through the Belgian capital along its wide-open boulevards. The riders will also pass by St. Pieters-Woluwe in suburban Brussels, where Merckx lived as a child and where he got to pull on his first yellow jersey.

From Brussels, it is an easy trek south into nearby France for the rest of the race.

Peter Sagan wins prelude to Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Three-time world road racing champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia made an outstanding start to the 2018 cycling season Sunday when he won the People’s Choice Classic, a prelude to the first World Tour event of the season, the Tour Down Under.

Sagan beat star sprinters Andre Greipel of Germany and Caleb Ewan of Australia in a bunch sprint to win the 50.6 kilometer (31.4 mile) race over 22 laps of a street course in central Adelaide.

The win means Sagan will wear the tour leader’s ocher jersey in the first stage of the six stage Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Sunday’s race does not count toward general classification.

Ewan won the race in each of the past two years and Greipel is the only three-time winner. The 132-strong field that lined up for the race Sunday included seven former winners.