Chris Froome’s winning ride on the Mont Ventoux today in the Tour de France may have looked easy, but Sky’s captain and the race leader was suffering and in need of oxygen at the summit.
After crossing the line at 1912 metres, medics strapped an oxygen mask to his face to make sure he would not faint.
“I can’t ever remember taking oxygen before, after a stage like that,” Froome said in a press conference.
“I hope it’s relatively normal given it was a full-gas effort up until the finish. I was feeling quite faint and short of breath at the top.”
He took about five to 10 minutes worth of oxygen before the podium presentation and meeting the press. Froome added, “It helped me feel much better.”
In order to gauge his opponents, Froome said, he feels his own suffering in the climbs.
“So much of it is on feeling. I like to think that in those moments I can feel when it’s hard. I can feel I’m hurting, and I hope the others are hurting at that point,” he continued.
“A lot of it is mental warfare, who can dig deeper and suffer more.”
Froome, after following in his team-mates’ wheels, launched several violent attacks on the 20.8-kilometre climb where Tom Simpson died in 1967.
His first at 7.2 kilometres remaining was to drop Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff). His second, third and fourth attacks, were to weaken the last remaining rider, Nairo Quintana (Movistar). At 1.3 kilometres out, close to Simpson’s memorial, he left Quintana and rode solo to his stage win.
“[The attack near Simpson's memorial] wasn’t actually planned,” Froome explained. “I tried to distance Quintana a few times before, each time he followed me quite easily and I thought he was going to win the stage at that point and I’d just focus on getting time in the GC. At about two kilometres, he started faltering and I decided to try again.”
Froome never raced Ventoux before, but he trained on it in May and saw Simpson’s memorial.
“It was circumstantial that it was close to Simpson’s memorial,” added, “but it was definitely worth paying tribute to him.”