Froome’s 2013 Tour de France win took root in Kenyan mountains

Christopher Froome of Britain, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, drinks a glass of champagne at his team car during the 21st and last stage of the 100th edition of the Tour de France.
Christopher Froome of Britain, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, drinks a glass of champagne at his team car during the 21st and last stage of the 100th edition of the Tour de France.
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When Chris Froome crossed the finish line in Paris last night he ticked off the final kilometre of a remarkable journey from the mountains of Kenya to Tour de France glory on the Champs-Elysees.

British victories in the Tour suddenly resemble buses – you wait 99 Tours for the first one and then two come along at once – but the significance of Froome’s win will reach much further around the globe than that of Sir Bradley Wiggins 12 months ago.

Froome made sure of his victory with third place on Saturday’s stage 20 to Annecy-Semnoz, emerging with a lead still north of five minutes heading into yesterday’s processional stage under the lights in Paris.

But the Tour had already looked won in the days before, with Froome a clear cut above his rivals throughout.

That it was a performance which lived up to his billing as the favourite made it no less remarkable for a man who has taken an unique path to the top step of the podium.

In the village just outside Nairobi where that journey began, his first coach David Kinjah was watching on with pride as Froome climbed the final kilometres to the summit of Annecy-Semnoz to write his name in history as the winner of the 100th Tour.

This was where Froome, the son of a former England hockey youth player, slept five to a room on the floor of Kinjah’s hut in between training rides through Ngong hills, a world away from the traditional cycling education.

“No doubt they’ll celebrate by going out for a long 200 kilometre ride, attacking each other the way they always do,” Froome said with a smile when asked how he imagined Kinjah and his current crop of students marking his victory.

In fact, Kinjah was out on a more leisurely ride yesterday morning, but one in which anyone was welcome to join in as long as they turned up wearing yellow.

This is exactly the sort of thing Froome wants to see.

“I’d like my performance this year to inspire youngsters who find it very hard to believe they can get out of Africa and get to Europe and make it in a professional peloton,” he said.

“I think my experiences show that if you really want to make something happen, you’ll find a way.”

Froome’s path began when his mother first took him to Kinjah – the first black African to sign for a European team – with Jane Froome desperate to find a way to channel her son’s enthusiasm for riding his bike into something more substantial.

Froome would never look back, but if he has one regret, it is that his mother has never been able to see his greatest triumphs, passing away weeks before he made his Tour debut in 2008.

“She’s been a really big motivation for me,” Froome said. “I’d like to think she’s been there alongside me every step of the way.”

He made that Tour debut as something of a rough diamond, finishing 84th for the Barloworld team. He would not return until 2012, but by then he was part of Team Sky’s attempt to crown a first British winner, finishing second overall as he helped Wiggins to victory.

Scott Thwaites.

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