Froome basks in maiden Tour win
Kenyan-born Chris Froome was repaid for the months of hard work for Team Sky by claiming his maiden Tour de France stage victory on Saturday.
On the first of two successive days in what organisers term the 'medium mountains', Team Sky put many of their rivals to the sword as Englishman Bradley Wiggins took over the yellow jersey from Swiss Fabian Cancellara.
And Froome, a softly-spoken 27-year-old who is now one of cycling's most promising-looking stage racers, was there to put the icing on the cake.
After Sky's scorching pace had dropped many rivals on the tough 5.9 km climb to the Planche des Belles Filles ski station, defending race champion Cadel Evans took things into his own hands.
Left on his own with Froome and Wiggins, Evans attacked with a little over 350 metres to go, only to be countered by Froome in the finale.
A runner-up at the Tour of Spain last year where Wiggins finished third, Froome's name is far from unknown in the peloton or among cycling fans.
But even Evans was surprised by the ease with which the adopted Briton came past him to seal victory.
"Froome was really incredible, he followed me and then accelerated past me. From behind it looked like he won easy," said Evans.
"I'm really happy because I didn't expect this, not in the Tour de France," said Froome, who took possession of the King of the Mountains jersey for the race's best climber.
"It was a bit of an acceleration at the end by Evans but I was actually expecting him to go a little bit harder.
"I don't know if he had seen the finish because it really is steep there and I could see him slowing down a little bit and I thought, 'I can see Bradley is in perfect position, he's not going to lose any time, let me just put in a small acceleration here and see if we can also take the stage'.
"And I got it so I'm really happy."
Froome, who left his native Kenya for South Africa to follow his dream of becoming a cyclist before finally making his way to the European peloton, was quick to share the glory.
"Going up that last climb, Richie (Porte) set a fantastic pace," he said.
"He dropped so many riders going up there and he made it so easy for us as we were sitting right there on the wheel in perfect position.
"It left me with the last two kilometres just to ride steady and set things up for the finish."
Froome's finish means he has moved up the race's general classification to ninth overall at 1min 32sec behind Wiggins.
And on a day that many so-called contenders – Alejandro Valverde, Levi Leipheimer, Frank Schleck and Andreas Kloden – all lost at least a minute to Wiggins and Evans, he could realistically challenge for a podium place.
While maintaining that Sky's aim is to see Wiggins, a three-time Olympic track champion, become Britain's first Tour de France winner, Froome would not say no to another Grand Tour podium place.
"The goal is still with Bradley Wiggins for the overall but if I'm there or thereabouts then that's also a threat for our opposition so it's putting us in a really good position."