Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome described the 2018 Giro d’Italia as the biggest fight of his career.
But after a masterclass in climbing, the Team Sky rider has become the first Briton to win ‘La Maglia Rosa’.
The accolades do not stop there.
Froome is just the third man to hold all three Grand Tours at the same time, and the first since the Vuelta a Espana moved from April to September in 1995.
Yellow, red – and now pink. @chrisfroome makes history at #Giro101 with his third consecutive Grand Tour win. He never stopped believing on the road to Rome. An incredible sixth Grand Tour for an incredible rider 💞 pic.twitter.com/tDZ4FxV2sJ
— Team Sky (@TeamSky) May 27, 2018
Bernard Hinault was the last man to achieve the treble by winning the Vuelta in 1983, with Eddy Merckx the first in 1973.
But this was no easy feat.
For large parts of the Giro, Froome looked off the pace by his own lofty standards.
He crashed before the opening time trial in Jerusalem and at one stage trailed then race leader Simon Yates but a massive four minutes and 52 seconds.
But just when his critics’ voices were at their loudest, the two-time Olympic time trial bronze medallist responded.
Yates cracked on Friday’s Stage 19, and an opportunity emerged.
Like a lion hunting down its prey, the Kenyan-born rider launched an aggressive solo attack 80km from the finish on the Finestre climb which would have even the sturdiest legs shaking.
An amazing three-minute victory took Froome into the overall lead, which he successfully defended with a seventh-place finish on Stage 20.
Froome was forced to repel several late attacks from defending champion Tom Dumoulin, who eventually fell away.
#Giro101 The Queen Stage. Witnessing history. A solo man on the lead. | #Giro101 La Tappa Regina scrive la storia. Un uomo solo al comando. | #Giro101 La Etapa Reina escribe la historia. Un hombre solo al mando. pic.twitter.com/w68M8o2cTE
— Giro d’Italia (@giroditalia) May 25, 2018
A dark cloud
While Froome’s impressive lung-busting climbs were a sight to behold, he faces further challenges away from the road.
A continuing anti-doping investigation lingers over the 33-year-old.
Froome was found to have double the permitted amount of salbutamol in his system during his La Vuelta victory last year.
Salbutamol is common in inhalers used to alleviate asthma which Froome has long suffered from.
“I have a clear conscience. When the time is right, all the information will be shared and I am sure people will see it from my point of view.”
As salbutamol is a controlled substance rather than a banned one, Froome has been allowed to compete.
Unless he can provide a satisfactory explanation for the result, he faces being stripped of his Vuelta title and banned for July’s Tour de France.
But the investigation is rumbling on and UCI President David Lappartient has admitted the case may not be resolved in time for Le Tour.
The incident has left a sour taste for many fans as the sport tries to restore its reputation.
Cycling’s chequered past
Over the past 20 years, some of the biggest names in cycling, headed by Lance Armstrong, have admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs.
And Froome’s rise from relative obscurity to the top at the start of the decade has been met with suspicion and anger in places.
He once had urine thrown on him at the Tour de France and there were further unsavoury incidents in this Giro.
During his epic effort on Stage 19, one spectator dressed as a surgeon chased him with a giant inhaler.
And on the penultimate stage, one fan appeared to spit at the man in the pink jersey.
But right now, Froome will only be reflecting on another superb victory in one of cycling’s great races.
Pinching myself! There were times over the last 3 weeks when I thought this wouldn’t be possible. This is a dream come true.
Thank you to my amazing teammates & everyone at @teamsky for believing in me 💖 #Giro101 @giroditalia #Giro2018 pic.twitter.com/zqRzvTpqpH
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) May 27, 2018