With Chris Froome and Team Sky one step away from success in Paris the achievement is slowly starting to sink in for the team.
The Brit’s team-mates and Team Sky performance staff displayed a mix of joy of relief following stage 20 at the summit of Annecy-Semnoz, with just a largely ceremonial run into Paris remaining.
With the team on the brink of a second successive yellow jersey, Sports Director Nicolas Portal admitted: “Everybody is really lost for words, happy and relieved. It’s done, or very close to being done. We obviously have the stage tomorrow but we’re hopeful that everything will be okay.
“It’s been a long, long road for everybody - the riders, for Froomey and the staff. Together we’ve been focused for a whole year - ever since we won the race last year.
“Corsica seems so far away now. It was a hard Tour de France. All the guys, not just on this team, who did the Tour can be very proud of this race. Every metre of the route over the three weeks was used to make the race harder. In the wind, on the climbs, the downhill and the sprints. The podium is a nice podium and for Froomey he’s won a hard Tour de France. Everyone in the top placings had to fight every day for the GC.”
Getting across the line
Even as Froome headed into the final GC day with a lead of five minutes and 11 seconds, Performance Manager Rod Ellingworth revealed there were a few nerves before the stage.
“Everybody was a little bit stressed this morning,” he said. “Physically, Froomey was as good as anybody else over those last three weeks but any little accident could have happened and we were always hanging on for that finish line. I think this is it now, it’s fantastic, brilliant.”
Competing in his first Tour de France, Pete Kennaugh will now ride into Paris alongside the maillot jaune after three weeks that saw him grow immensely as a rider.
“I always had confidence in Froomey,” said the Manxman. “Sometimes I’d doubt myself a bit – I don’t know why – but you build up your own nerves and over the last few days the fatigue’s really started to set in and I was struggling a bit. I was nervous about myself, but never once about Froomey. He makes it look so easy.”
Portal also reflected on the impressive manner in which the 28-year-old not only moved into the yellow jersey, but set about defending it.
“He has shown panache with his performances on the bike. But as a person he is polite. He knows what he wants to do and he was like that again today. He wanted to win the stage at the end. This victory will be good for his career but he is a great person and deserves it so much. It is also nice for cycling in general to have a good winner in Chris Froome.”
One of the stories of the race, Geraint Thomas battled on through a fractured pelvis following a stage one crash and will also now complete his heroic journey on Sunday.
“It’s been a hard race,” said the Welshman. “That first week was really tough but I was getting better all the time. Seeing Froomey going so well meant I wanted to stick around and be there for the boys and it’s an incredible feeling right now.”
All that remains is a 118km final stage from Versailles into Paris and a unique night time finish to the 100th edition of the race.
Despite the celebrations, Portal confirmed: “We need to treat tomorrow as a typical stage. Obviously most of the riders in the race will be thinking about getting across that finish line. It will be more about the sprinters’ teams. They will be very focussed on the final sprint on the Champs-Elysees. We need to be sharp too as it is still a race and anything can happen.
“It should be a really special one this year with the modified circuit going around the Arc de Triomphe. In the dark too it will be really special. When we cross the line there will be a big celebration for sure.”