PARIS - I won't let you down like Lance Armstrong. This Tour de France champion is for real.
That, in so many words, is the promise Chris Froome made as the newest winner of cycling's showcase race so badly hurt over the years by riders who doped to win it.
Because of their deceit, Froome faced a series of questions as he dominated rivals over three weeks of racing, all centered on the same key concern: Can we believe in you?
Yes, he insisted, the sport is changing. He handled the scrutiny politely and adroitly. He said he understood the skepticism. And on the podium in Paris, his wiry frame wrapped in his canary yellow jersey, Froome asked the guardians of the 110-year-old race and all those who love it to trust him.
"This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time," he said.
In two years, Britain has had two winners: Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and now Froome, who rode into Paris in style: Riders pedaled up to him to offer congratulations; he sipped from a flute of champagne; a Tour organizer stuck an arm from his car window to shake Froome's hand. He dedicated his win to his late mother, Jane, who died in 2008.
"Without her encouragement to follow my dreams I would probably be at home watching on TV," he said.
Froome took the race lead on Stage 8 in the Pyrenees, never relinquished it and fended off rivals whose challenges turned this 100th Tour into a thriller. He and his Sky teammates linked arms as they rode for the line on the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees. Marcel Kittel won the final sprint, the German's sprinter's fourth stage win of this Tour.
Five-time winners Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain joined Froome on the podium in a striking nighttime ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe. Missing was Armstrong. Stripping the serial doper of his seven wins tore a hole in the Tour's roll of honor as large as that left by World War II, when the race didn't take place from 1940-46.
None of the 100th edition's podium finishers - Froome, Nairo Quintana (second) and Joaquim Rodriguez (third) - have ever failed a drug test or been directly implicated in doping.
"In a way, I'm glad that I've had to face those questions," Froome said. "Hopefully that's sent a strong message to the cycling world that the sport has changed - and it really has.
"The riders are united and it's not going to be accepted anymore."
Froome's winning margin of 4 minutes, 20 seconds was the largest since 1997, when Jan Ullrich beat Richard Virenque by 9:09. Both later admitted to doping. Armstrong won by larger margins, but those no longer count. And Froome's three stage wins - in the Pyrenees, on Mont Ventoux and in a mountain time trial - were the most for a Tour winner since Armstrong got five in 2004, results now annulled.