ALPE D’HUEZ, France (AP) The Latest from the Tour de France (all times local):
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Chris Froome came away with a little icing on his Tour de France victory cake in Saturday’s 20th stage: The Briton will take home the best-climber’s polka-dot jersey along with the yellow one.
In addition to Froome’s mountaineering success earlier in the race, his chase of top rival Nairo Quintana in the final climb to the Alpe d’Huez in the penultimate stage gave him just enough points to swipe the red-and-white King of the Mountains jersey from Romain Bardet.
The Frenchman earned it a day earlier, after the third of four days in the Alps, but lagged on Saturday and didn’t pick up any extra points in the climbing contest.
”I had a lot of dreams in that polka-dot jersey last night,” Bardet said. ”I enjoyed it as much as I could.”
The Tour de France director says the most disappointing part of the race came when Chris Froome dealt a ”knockout blow” to top rivals in the first Pyrenees stage.
Speaking after the Briton locked up victory in Saturday’s penultimate Stage 20, Christian Prudhomme said many fans hoped for a Stage 10 showdown on July 14 among Froome, 2014 Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana, two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador, and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali.
Froome won that stage, and Quintana was about a minute slower, keeping his title hopes alive. But Contador lost nearly three minutes to Froome, and Nibali lost nearly 4 1/2 minutes, dealing them a serious blow.
”Everyone dreamt for a year about a battle between at least four big names, and there was nothing but a duel,” Prudhomme lamented.
Chris Froome fought his way to near-certain victory in the Tour de France despite being "tight-chested” and battling a cough in recent days, with his voice cracking a bit.
He wants to set the record straight: He hasn’t had to apply for any special medication.
With media suspicion about doping hovering over the Briton in this Tour, Froome said he has not had to apply for any TUEs – therapeutic use exemptions.
Froome has repeatedly faced questions about his performances, and has always said he has ridden clean. Froome has never tested positive for doping.
He hadn’t previously indicated he had health issues, but said he’s not the only one under the weather.
”You speak to anyone, half the peloton’s got some kind of cold … picked up something along the way,” Froome said. ”I have been struggling in the last few days.”
Nairo Quintana gave it all he had in a final, desperate surge to try to win the Tour de France.
It just wasn’t enough.
After repeatedly attacking Tour leader Chris Froome on two big climbs in Saturday’s 20th stage in the Alps, the 25-year-old Colombian finished 1 minute, 20 seconds ahead of the Briton. But it only cut his overall deficit roughly in half.
”It was the last day … to go for it,” the Movistar team leader said. ”We got a little time, but it wasn’t enough.”
The Tour ends Sunday in Paris, and Froome’s 1:12 lead overall is too much to overcome because the 21st stage is mostly flat. Froome and Quintana are set to respectively finish first and second, as they did in 2013.
Quintana said he lost the race in the Tour’s first week. In a wind-swept Stage 2 in the Netherlands, he lost nearly 1 1/2 minutes to Froome.
”Being second at the Tour de France isn’t half-bad,” mused the Colombian.
Thibault Pinot has given France its third stage victory at this Tour de France by winning the penultimate 20th stage, speeding through a sea of fans in a dramatic solo breakaway up one of cycling’s most celebrated climbs.
Third overall in last year’s Tour but largely frustrated this time, Pinot salvaged some glory on Saturday by speeding ahead to win the 110.5-kilometer (68.6-mile) ride from Modane Valfrejus to Alpe d’Huez.
”There no word to describe it,” said Pinot, who crashed in a winding downhill in Stage 17 as the race entered the Alps. ”Because of my bad luck, I thought of dropping out … but I always believed.”
Pinot also won an uphill stage in the 2012 Tour.
In a dramatic Alpine finale, Chris Froome all but locked up his second Tour de France victory by clinging – just barely – to his lead after the race’s last big challenge, a finish up Alpe d’Huez in Stage 20 won by Thibaut Pinot of France.
The 30-year-old Briton appeared to struggle but limited his losses to second-place Nairo Quintana, who repeatedly attacked but couldn’t fully erase his 2 minute, 38 second deficit to Froome.
Froome is now poised for a largely ceremonial ride to Paris in the 21st and final stage because the mostly flat course offers virtually no chance for his rivals to make up enough time to overcome him.
Expect Froome and his Team Sky comrades to be sipping Champagne on way to the Champs-Elysees.
Bearded cross-dressers, suited superheroes like Spiderman and Flash, and beer-guzzling Dutchmen draped in orange joined the thousands of fans waiting to welcome Tour de France riders on one of the race’s most legendary climbs.
Potentially rowdy crowds lined the winding, and on Saturday, windy, route up to the famed Alpe d’Huez, which features 21 switchbacks and incomparable views of mountains and valleys.
The climb made its debut in the 112-year-old race in 1952, and Saturday’s 20th stage marks its 29th appearance since then. The 13.8-kilometer (8.6-mile) climb has become a mecca for cycling fans, many on their own bikes or in camping cars and waving flags of many countries, to cheer on the riders.
For a little flavor of the atmosphere, click here:
The Tour de France pack is on the last big stage of this year’s race, with Britain’s Chris Froome hoping to rebuff any attacks so he can take home the yellow jersey.
While a few breakaway riders jumped out early, the peloton took a leisurely pace with two gargantuan climbs ahead: The Croix de Fer pass and the fabled Alpe d’Huez at the end of a 110.5 kilometer (68.6 mile) ride from Modane Valfrejus.
After three weeks of leg pain, heat, rain and intermittent abuse from roadside spectators, Froome and his main rivals are eager to reach the finish in Paris on Sunday. Nairo Quintana is the only rider threatening Froome’s hopes of sipping Champagne on the Champs-Elysees: The Colombian is 2 minutes, 38 seconds behind in second place.