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July 24, 2016

PARIS (AP) On the bike - and off - Chris Froome has been in a class of his own for three weeks at the Tour de France.

With rivals unable to attack in the mountains and seemingly content to fight for podium places, only bad luck could have prevented the Kenyan-born British rider from winning cycling's biggest race for the third time in four years.

Two crashes put his ambition to the test, but Froome recovered each time. Here is a look at the defining moments of the Team Sky leader's ride across France:

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STAGE 8: SOLO WIN IN PYRENEES

Froome surprised rivals with a downhill attack to claim the race leader's yellow jersey in the second Pyrenean stage. He led at the top of the final climb of the day, the Col de Peyresourde, and attacked when least expected. Crouched on top of his handlebars for extra aerodynamics, he soloed to victory and moved atop the general classification with a 16-second lead.

''The one I enjoyed the most by far was going on the descent, that just epitomized what racing is all about,'' Froome said. ''Like when I was a kid, riding my bike at full speed in the descents in Kenya.''

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STAGE 11: A MASTER TACTICIAN IN CROSSWINDS

In a stage that looked promising for sprinters, Froome's tactical nous was on display on the road to Montpellier, using the wind to his advantage to slip into a breakaway and gain more time on his direct rivals.

As the peloton shattered in the crosswinds in the finale, Froome was clever enough to stay at the front and was able to join Peter Sagan when the world champion attacked 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the finish.

Sagan won the stage by edging Froome in a sprint finish, but the Briton got a six-second bonus for his second-place finish and gained 12 seconds on all of his main opponents.

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STAGE 12: CRASHING AT VENTOUX

The image of Froome off his bike and running toward the finish up Mont Ventoux is already part of Tour de France lore.

Just moments after Froome, Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema attacked together in the punishing climb, they rode into the back of a TV motorbike that abruptly stopped on a road blocked by fans. The trio hit the ground, but Froome could not resume racing because his bike was broken.

In the resulting panic, he started to run up the mountain before receiving a race assistance bike which was not the right size. His team car was finally able to provide him with a suitable substitute, but Froome crossed the finish line far behind his rivals.

Because of the time loss, Froome initially dropped to sixth overall before race officials allowed him to keep the yellow jersey, ruling that he had lost his bike in unfair circumstances.

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STAGES 13, 18: FROOME HAMMERS RIVALS IN TIME TRIALS

Froome finished runner-up to time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin in the first time trial, creating bigger gaps on all of his direct rivals with an impressive performance. That day, his overall lead improved to 1 minute, 47 seconds on Dutch rider Bauke Mollema and he relegated fellow Briton Adam Yates 2:45 back, with Nairo Quintana lagging by 2:59.

Froome further strengthened his grip on the race when he won the uphill time trial from Sallanches to Megeve as he rode 21 seconds faster than Dumoulin.

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STAGE 19: FALLING IN THE RAIN

Two days before reaching the Champs Elysees, Froome endured another crash during a chaotic and spectacular Alpine stage in stormy and wet weather. He was lucky enough to escape with no serious injury, and even emerge with a bigger overall lead.

Froome hit the ground in a descent 13.5 kilometers (8 miles) from the finish, slipping on road paint as he crossed a white line. With blood dripping down his right leg, cuts and bruises on his back and blood on his right elbow, Froome did not panic. He quickly borrowed a teammate's bike and stayed in the overall lead after crossing the finish line 36 seconds behind Frenchman Romain Bardet. Once again, nothing could part Froome from his yellow jersey.

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