Aspen filmmaker taking to the sky in ‘Flying Boat’ | PostIndependent.com

Aspen filmmaker taking to the sky in ‘Flying Boat’

An Aspen filmmaker is taking to air, sea and land for a new documentary on a little-known piece of aviation history.

Dirk Braun, best known locally for his commercial film work with his Red Mountain Productions, is digging into the history of the Grunman Albatross flying boats and the curious cast of characters who fly and preserve them today.

“I regard them as the ultimate adventure machine,” Braun, 30, said on a recent afternoon in the cafe at the Aspen Art Museum. “They’re amphibious machines and some of the most diversely capable machines ever created.”

Now in production, “Flying Boat” will be Braun’s feature debut. It will profile the pilots, history buffs and surfers who use them today while also exploring the aircraft’s history. The Albatross went out of production in 1961, but its heyday was the 1930s, when its popularity coincided with the elegance and adventure of early aviation.

“These are relics from the golden age of aviation,” said Braun, who moved to Aspen five years ago after studying film at the University of Colorado in Boulder. “They’re like flying yachts.”

Originally designed for search-and-rescue missions, the flying boats can take off and land on water and on the ground. In total, 466 of the planes were constructed. There are about a dozen still flying around the world.

The best-known flying boat in history isn’t an Albatross — it’s Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose,” which flew just once for about 30 seconds in 1947. The Albatrosses, by contrast, Braun noted, have circumnavigated the globe and landed in nearly every region on Earth.

Jimmy Buffett wrote about his Grunman Albatross — a 1955 model nicknamed “Hemisphere Dancer” — in his memoir “A Pirate Looks at 50” and the song “Jamaica Mistaica,” which recounts him being shot down by Jamaican police.

Charles Lindbergh flew one of the planes on a South American tour in 1929, two years after his trans-Atlantic flight made him one of the most famous men in the world. Lindbergh climbed out of the hatch and onto the plane’s bow at one point to shoot aerial photos on a flight to Venezuela, according to an account in the book “The China Clipper: The Age of the Great Flying Boats.” Braun and his team plan to do the same during an upcoming flight around Manhattan, in homage to Lindbergh.

Among Braun’s film subjects is Tom Casey, a New York-based novelist and pilot who restored an Albatross from an “aviation graveyard” in Arizona. On Aug. 1, Braun will join Casey — also a co-producer on the film — for the flight along the Hudson River Valley and around the New York City skyline.

The art deco marine air terminal at LaGuardia Airport is among the New York locales that have survived since the Albatross’ early days. Braun plans to film there and to re-enact scenes from the Albatross’ pre-World War II exploits in the film. Braun also plans to film with pilots and collectors around Connecticut, the lakes of northern Minnesota and central Texas, the beaches of Florida and in Bermuda, where Pan Am once flew regular Albatross flights. Billabong has used the planes for surf expeditions, taking advantage of the plane’s ability to anchor at sea and allow surfers to paddle into waves from the flying boat.

“Just a handful of people still fly them,” Braun said. “They’re all interesting, and they all have a different story of what brought them to flying boats.”

Flash flood hits western GarCo road

Several vehicles got stuck on Garfield County Road 213 after a flash flood hit at around 7 p.m. Friday. According to a press release from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, the water quickly eroded part of the road at mile marker two, while just two miles up the road, several vehicles got stuck.

According to the press release, residents stepped in to help neighbors who were stuck until county road and bridge workers could get to the scene.

The rain that caused the flooding north of De Beque may have occurred several miles away, but through a series of ravines and gullies, a tremendous amount of water can be brought to a single point, which can spell disaster to the unwary hiker or motorist, the news release noted.

This is not the first flash flood in Garfield County. In the past two years portions of Interstate 70 were flooded near DeBeque in similar instances. The Garfield County sheriff’s office recommends that if water is crossing a road, drivers seek a high point away from the bottoms of ravines and gullies, while the same goes for those hiking or biking.

Science column: Our humble but impactful prairie

The majority of Coloradans depend on the prairie – and don’t even know it. It’s much more than a flat carpet of tumbleweed-infested dirt clods – it’s an economic catalyst. Covering about 40 percent of the state, it impacts mountain towns and underlies the Mile High City.

A prairie is an ecosystem or habitat. Here in Colorado it exists east of the Rocky Mountain foothills, on a rolling landscape that’s part of North America’s Great Plains.

But Colorado’s plains aren’t like those of the Midwest’s Corn Belt. They’re a mile high because when the Rockies rose upward 70 million years ago they lifted the plains like canvas over a tent pole. Since then, the part of this landscape that underlies most Front Range cities has been dissected by rivers, creating a broad, bowl-shaped valley littered with small hills. Called the “Piedmont,” from Italian, meaning “at the foot of the mountain,” this region differs from the flatter terrain to the east, known as the “High Plains” or “Eastern Plains.”

The most direct economic impact of our prairie is on agriculture, a multibillion dollar industry in eastern Colorado. By understanding of how native prairie ecosystems succeeded, we’ve harnessed the soils and unique climate of the plains to grow corn, wheat, hay and sugar beets, and to raise cattle, sheep and poultry. Hemp is a recent addition.

The high elevation of these settings makes it challenging to live or to farm there, because they’re more susceptible to temperature extremes. And to wind. If you’ve spent time here, you know what I’m talking about. Autumn wind. Winter wind. Spring wind. And of course, the summer winds.

Farming the prairie isn’t straightforward, and many failed during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when a series of droughts, overcultivation and deep plowing caused massive erosion of the topsoil. Collapse of the region’s agricultural community soon followed. Many of these abandoned efforts were purchased by the government and consolidated into the Pawnee and Comanche National Grasslands, where short- and mid-grass prairie and its associated fauna are slowly returning to their natural state.

Fortunately, many of the prairie’s physical and biological components are resilient, and biologists and conservationists are working to protect those that aren’t. The prairie’s anchoring fauna and flora have evolved to repatriate disturbed and new areas, so in some cases they can be successfully reintroduced to plains habitat. Witness the ongoing prairie rehabilitation of Colorado’s most toxic cold war relics – the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Rocky Flats.

Surprisingly, the prairie has a strong impact on mountain ecosystems. For example, the prairie is the breeding ground for miller moths. Plentiful supply of these nocturnal pals is pretty important – once hatched, they migrate from the prairie up to mountain meadows, where they pollinate vast numbers of wildflowers, providing a foundation for local food webs. Prairie-born moths are also a yummy and nutritious food source for all sorts of mountain beasts – from tiny bats to hulking bears. To learn more, see http://frontporchstapleton.com/article/moth-madness/

Mountains also affect the prairie, acting like the lead cyclists who break the wind for riders drafting behind them. In the case of the Rockies, eastward-moving moist air rises over the peaks, loses moisture and flows past the Front Range and much of eastern Colorado without dumping much precipitation. This “rain shadow” is what keeps the eastern half of Colorado so dry, even in winter.

The dearth of rainfall means our prairie has few tall grasses or trees. Instead it’s dominated by short- and mid-height grasses. These grasses are drought-, cold-, heat- and grazing-resistant, and can go dormant when conditions are unfavorable. They have amazing root systems to help them survive. In creek bottoms and lowlands where taller counterparts of these grasses lived, early settlers cut the grass’ sod into bale-shaped blocks, using them to construct homes. The root structure of such sod is oodles stronger than that of the turf you see on fields and lawns today. You can visit one of these homes at the Plains Conservation Center or at the Wheat Ridge Historical Society.

Today’s prairie endures as tiny patches on the plains’ quilt of agriculture, urban life and invasive species. Its humble terrain houses an incredible diversity of plants, animals and scenic vistas. By carefully shepherding its resources and diversity, it can grow, be enjoyed and support our future.

James Hagadorn, Ph.D., is a scientist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Suggestions & comments welcome at jwhagadorn@dmns.org

Colorado Vietnam veteran photos all found

It’s done!

Maui florist Janna Hoehn and her team of volunteers recently found the last missing picture of all of our 626 men killed in the Vietnam War and the state of Colorado now has a complete set of pictures for the Wall of Faces exhibit that will soon be a part of the Vietnam Memorial on the mall in Washington, D.C.

In April 2015 Janna typed a list of 281 missing pictures from the 626 lost in Colorado, a whopping 45 percent of our men lost in that war, and started to contact newspapers, television stations and radio shows all over Colorado.

Simultaneously she was working to find missing pictures in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada and her home state of Hawaii. She had set out, from the west, to attempt to complete state sets that might ultimately locate all 58,315 pictures of those killed in action in the Vietnam War.

Her quest being to leave future America generations with a moving addition to the already solemn and much-visited Vietnam Memorial on the mall in Washington, D.C. It is there that an addition is about to be made in the form of an underground gallery that will soon open called the Education Center that will display pictures of those lost in the war.

About eight years ago, when Janna visited the memorial she was appalled to discover the number of missing pictures on hand at the Vietnam Memorial and considered it a slight to those who had given every last measure of themselves in an ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War. Janna set out to do her part by finding 42 missing pictures of veterans from her island of Maui and was then asked to help with the state of Hawaii. A difficult task, wherein she had to travel to the far-reaching islands of her home state that only recently was completed after a four and a half year quest.

It occurred to Janna that many other states likewise needed just such an effort. However, with 32,000 missing pictures from the national collection, just where would one begin in such a huge country as America? Suddenly the answer seemed simple, just start moving from west to east and see what happens.

And “what happened” was a hunt that has now resulted in complete sets of pictures for the states of South Dakota, Montana, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Alaska, and now Colorado. The Western states of Wyoming and New Mexico had already completed their sets, while a group of ladies in Arizona informed Janna that they would work to find their own missing pictures.

To find 281 pictures an emphasis was required in no less than 36 different counties throughout Colorado.

If newspapers tended to bring in the largest share, it was the quiet competence of reference librarians and school officials that marked a major turning point in Janna’s ultimate haul. When all else failed mayors, sheriffs and police chiefs were asked to join in and always met the challenge.

Along the way was one touching account after another and tears feel at times. Uncovered were pictures of men declared missing in action who, years later have been placed into a “assumed dead” category.

Telephone calls to those alive who remembered their brothers solicited tears of joy from a younger brother in the San Luis Valley — as he was asked to help, he informed that although he was 60 miles from any town, he would get on a motorcycle this very moment to get the picture to Janna.

Perhaps no conversation in all of Colorado could match that of the sister of Gerald and Rodrick Whalen. As the call concluded it seemed appropriate to tell her of the sorrow one feels for her that she had lost two brothers and a cousin in that war. With characteristic Western rugged female grit, that comment was “stopped right in its tracks.” Amazingly was this “oh, no, don’t be sorry for my family, my family is proud of their men, there’s nothing to feel sorry about for us.”

At other times terrific individual heroism was uncovered in the person Gilbert Hamilton of Denver who earned the Distinguished Service Cross, America’s second-highest award for heroism, in the last moments of his life. At least a half dozen cases of heroism worthy of the coveted Silver Star Medal also coming to light in the hunt for Colorado’s last missing pictures.

It was inspiring, even if tearful, to go into so many amazing corners of the beautiful state of Colorado to find all of those missing pictures.

And now in the face of 11,000 pictures still missing nationwide, even though she has personally posted about 4,000 herself, it is time for Janna to look for the last two missing pictures from the states of Washington and Nebraska as she sets her sights upon crossing the Mississippi River, state-by-state until the gallery in the Vietnam Memorial is representative of all 58,315 engraved on The Wall just above

All of that is for another day, for now this is a time for all of Colorado to be proud that Janna Hoehn and her volunteers cared about ours even as we thank her and hers that it’s done.

Dana Kwist of Colorado Springs helped Hoehn with her project.

Move leads Rifle Area chamber CEO to resign

After 16 months leading the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce through a transformative period, CEO and President Andrea Maddalone is resigning in advance of her family’s move to northern Idaho.

In an email to chamber members on July 13, Maddalone, a Carbondale native and Silt resident for the past 17 years, framed the decision as the pursuit of a dream long held by her and her family.

Her husband,Thomas Maddalone, recently received a job offer that will grant them the financial freedom for Maddalone, whose last day at the chamber was Friday, to spend more time with their 5-year-old son, Beau. It was a difficult decision, but one that came with a certain level of excitement.

“The door is wide open for me, so I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said in an interview. “Being a mom sounds really exciting.”

Chamber board chair Kasey Nispel, who has been involved with the chamber since 2010, stepped down from her position to serve as interim president and CEO as the board begins a search process. The hope is to have a president in place by September.

Nispel and others joined in expressing support and sadness about Maddalone’s departure.

“I think Andrea has done an amazing job,” said Nispel, who is considering applying for the position. “She had a lot to take on and tackled that.”

George Cutting, a local business owner and chamber ambassador, among other positions, said Maddalone leaves some big shoes to fill.

“The thing that was so special is that (Maddalone’s) energy brought a revitalization to the chamber,” Cutting said. “And our membership is up and we’ve got community building happening, which is what a chamber should be doing. … We’re going to miss her terribly.”

Days after the announcement, Maddalone reflected on her tenure and the broader Rifle area business climate, which has proven more resilient amid the most recent slowdown in oil and gas development compared to previous energy downturns, although, she noted that feeling likely is not universally felt.

“We bounced back quickly and we didn’t dip low … we did face a dip, there’s no doubt. Everybody knows we faced a dip and it was rough for a while, but it wasn’t really low and it wasn’t really long.”

She points to steady sales tax numbers in Rifle — unaudited year-to-date numbers through April show an increase of $119,769 in 2016 compared with 2015 — and other factors as evidence of the current economic stability.

Still, that is not to say the Rifle area is free of challenges, which include lingering hesitation from previous downturns, as well as questions on whether or not the local community can sustain new businesses.

While a number of new businesses opened in the past 16 months, some of those same businesses also closed their doors.

“We have people feeling comfortable to open up businesses. … We have all four corners of our downtown filled. We have cute coffee shops, we’ve got ice cream shops, we’ve got great restaurants. That’s what makes a town,” she said. “And the negative is that they also close, and … is shopping local enough to keep businesses open? Are all the efforts that we try to do keeping businesses open?”

Helping new businesses launch and aiding existing businesses in staying open became the central goal of the chamber during Maddalone’s tenure.

Prior to that shift, the primary focus was on tourism, which remains a smaller part of the chamber’s overall mission.

People have always approached the chamber inquiring how to start a business, and those questions have noticeably increased in the past year, especially once the chamber moved last summer.

In the past, the problem was nobody really knew how to respond to those people interested in starting a business. Gaining that knowledge was part of the chamber’s necessary evolution toward fostering business development and growth.

“Our goal is when somebody walks through the door and says, ‘Hi, I’m interested in starting a business’ … we give them the right direction and we give them the right tools and we give them the right advice,” she said.

Along those lines, the chamber has partnered with Colorado Mountain College in Rifle to offer a series of business courses in the fall. The first course will be free, Maddalone said.

Additionally, the chamber is poised to engage in some long-term strategic planning in the fall. Key to the future direction will be the needs in the community.

“So in five years will we be more tourism-based or business-based? I’d imagine we’ll just adapt with the times, and right now the times are telling us people are comfortable enough to open a business. People are also telling us ‘help us stay in business,’” Maddalone said.

Sunday Profile: Top doc asks, ‘Did I do the best for everybody I saw?’

They say that those who are truly great at what they do often aren’t aware of it.

Perhaps this explains why orthopaedic surgeon Tito Liotta of Glenwood Orthopaedic Center couldn’t imagine how it was that he was voted the Locals’ Choice Best Doctor in Glenwood Springs two years in a row.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know I was up for this award,” Liotta said during an interview earlier this week. “I didn’t even know how people would be nominated in the first place, let alone win. So this is certainly an honor, an unexpected one.”

A local physician since 1996, Liotta’s presence in the community and experience in his field stretch back for decades. After completing undergraduate studies at the University of California San Diego and finishing medical school at UC San Francisco, Liotta completed a residency at the University of Colorado Denver. He then moved on to serve as an orthopaedic surgeon with the Navy for four years.

“I spent about 14 months in Twentynine Palms, California, but was then transferred to southern Spain,” he said. “After three years in Spain, I decided to move on to a fellowship in Indiana.”

It was during this fellowship that Liotta pursued an interest in the specialized discipline of sports medicine. There he worked with a group that cared for the Indianapolis Colts football team, plus athletes from Purdue University, several smaller colleges and about 40 area high schools.

Post-fellowship, Liotta found himself in the market for a bit more stability, a town to call home — and a great place to raise a family. Glenwood Springs seemed like just the ticket.

“After Indiana I thought that ideally I wanted to work in professional sports, but after a few other offers I heard about a job here, with what was then known as Orthopaedic Associates of Aspen and Glenwood,” he recalled. “It seemed to offer the best of both worlds: taking care of highly athletic individuals in an active community that’s a great place to raise kids. So we moved.”

Liotta has since watched his four children, a daughter and triplet sons, grow up in the Roaring Fork Valley. He has also enjoyed pursuing his passions of biking and telemark skiing here, and has been able to grow a practice of which he is proud. Liotta’s primary specialty involves working with the complexities of the shoulder.

“Over the years I guess you could say that I have developed an affinity for taking care of shoulders, and this has become about 70 to 75 percent of my practice,” he said, adding that this work includes “anything from reconstruction of the joint due to instability, to replacement for arthritis.”

As new developments in the field have occurred over the years, Liotta says it has been an exciting challenge to grow and adapt with state-of-the-art technologies.

“When I began here in Glenwood in 1996, arthroscopic shoulder surgery was really in its infancy. Arthroscopy means using an instrument about the size of a pen to go into a joint to work on the area,” he explained. “It’s been fascinating to learn about and utilize new tools and new ways of caring for shoulder patients over the years. Basically, I’ve developed a skill that works for helping people get back to who they want to be.”

Liotta’s patients range from children to middle-aged adults to seniors: a cross-section of the community who come to him for a variety of reasons.

“It’s everyone from the little kid who falls off the jungle gym, to the athlete on the field, to the construction laborer, to the octogenarian who has worn their shoulder out from a lifetime of use,” he noted.

Although Liotta has spent decades honing his surgical technique and staying abreast of the latest developments in orthopaedic medicine, his personal philosophy of care extends far beyond just what goes on in the operating room — and this has made all the difference, he believes. It seems as though Liotta’s patients also believe that this has made a difference: perhaps even enough of one to spur them to vote for him as best doctor in both 2015 and 2016.

“You might say that I’m a little bit of a ‘motherly’ physician in that I don’t just fix someone’s problem and move on to the next,” he said. “I’ve grown to where I want people to be all the way better before they’re discharged. So they stay with me longer and I see them more often just to make sure they’re doing well and aren’t having any problems, as opposed to just reaching simple milestones and saying goodbye.”

Liotta’s patients will be happy to learn that their favorite doctor plans to continue practicing in Glenwood Springs for years to come.

“Nope, I don’t think I will be retiring anytime too soon,” Liotta said. The doctor then stressed that he is filled with gratitude.

“At the end of the day, I just ask myself, ‘Did I do enough, did I do the best for everybody I saw?’” he mused. “I truly just want to say thank you: to the community, to my team and my patients. I’m only as good as the people I work with, and work on.”

Fourth annual Glenwood Springs Cruise-A-Thong

The 4th annual Glenwood Springs Cruise-A-Thong took place Saturday morning. The event is a race for the average joe in the form of a triathlon where the most average time wins. The racers started their trek at Veltus Park where they biked to a beach party on the Colorado River, walked the bike path to south Glenwood and floated back to Veltus park via the Roaring Fork River.

Letter: A lovely convention

A delightful first day of the Republican circus/convention, straight from the fascist playbook. Cherry-picked stories to sell fear, fear and more fear. Perhaps we just need to be “safe” from Republicans?

We were treated to immense, overcoordinated mudslinging at Hillary Clinton, mixed in with the usual racism, religious intolerance and their ever-increasing promotion of a single acceptable religion. I did thoroughly enjoy the sideshow of some of the attendees tearing up their credentials, throwing them on the floor and walking out, the Colorado delegation, among others, with them. All over a silly vote that The Donald didn’t want taken. I was very impressed by the plagiarism of the current first lady’s speech by The Donald’s trophy wife. I’m sure it must be difficult for Republican speechwriters to come up with original words promoting positive, human action.

We had another excessive dose of the continuing attempt to sell the Republican fantasy that the current administration bears the singular responsibility for today’s divisiveness and dysfunction in America. Always interesting to note how the disastrous results of the massive Republican obstructionism: in voting, environmental protection, education and actually, any people-oriented legislation, gets blamed on the Democrats. One has to wonder why they think no one can remember how they have crippled our nation with their traitorous and disloyal behavior. An endless sell-out to the corporate/rich. Tax relief for the wealthy and the corporations and a never-ending attack on the economic base of the middle class.

Classic fascism, as I have suggested before, find on the internet, “Fourteen Signs of Fascism.” We are often wont to suggest that some particular election is the “one” that will set the course of America’s foreseeable future. Given the near stranglehold that wealth already has on our nation and the increasing power for control/management of the populace by technology, this may be that election. We are faced with scant choice, when one of the candidates is a self-obsessed, uneducated, thoughtless fool. His presidency would be much like his convention.

R.W. Boyle

New Castle

Basketball aplenty in Hoop D’Ville Tourney at Sayre Park

There are times when the game of basketball can feel like an endless and perfect wave that stretches to eternity. The rhythm, flow, and geometry of Dr. James Naismith’s invention can hook a player for life. The joy of playing basketball is not one dimensional, nor is it a singular event in nature. The addiction to the game, if you will, can be passed through time and generations.

Former Glenwood High School players Jim Yellico and John Doose have been running and jumping around the Sayre Park courts since they were teenagers. The annual basketball rite of summer known as the Hoop D’ Ville Tournament has been in their blood since organizer Mike Picore tossed out the first ball in the year 2000. Saturday’s seventeenth installment of Hoop D’ Ville once again saw Yellico with his familiar team known as the Andrews, and Doose teaming with his regulars, who sport the moniker of Hyenas.

This year though, both Yellico and Doose welcomed a couple of new members to their respective teams. Much like prince’s ascend to their rightful positions in the kingdom, Mason Yellico and Max Doose, both recent high school graduates, joined their fathers in the pursuit of 2016 Sayre Park bragging rights.

“It’s a privilege to play on this team with my dad,” said Max Doose, who prepped at Rifle High this past year. “It’s fun to be a part of this. I grew up with basketball.”

The Andrews also featured Cameron Horning, Glenwood’s Western Slope League player of the year, and former CU Buff Greg Jensen, who played with Chauncey Billups on CU’s last victorious NCAA tournament team, a win against the Indiana Hoosiers in the late 1990’s. The Andrews were bolstered yet by former Demon Eli Houck’s 5-year old daughter Kaija, who proudly embraced her dad prior to the beginning of the day’s play and shouted, “You can win this, daddy!”

Adam Wiggins, who also played multiple sports at Glenwood High, rounded out the roster for the Andrews.

Unfortunately, neither the Hyenas (Jason Rand, Dorian McClelland, Michael Palmer, Aaron Jewell, and the Doose’s) could turn the family atmosphere into a tournament championship, as a group of players known as the KFC Bucket Team took the day’s honors with a convincing 30-20 win over a squad of several former Basalt Longhorns known as the Bolts.

The Bolts (Kyle Kappeli, Jeff Powers, Danny Popish, Seth Thomas, and Fernando Carreon) were running on fumes when they reached the title game. A trip through the playback bracket had them playing their seventh game of the day in the championship matchup with KFC (Nathan Terrin, Colter McKenzie, Everett Robinson, Tommy Powers, and Nich LeFebre.)

Quick, early baskets by former Coal Ridge standout Nathan Terrin, and ex-Fruita Wildcat Colter McKenzie propelled KFC to a 16-0 lead that seemed almost insurmountable on the sticky-hot July afternoon at Glenwood’s venerable outdoor courts.

The Bolts did put a scare into their opponents by netting buckets both inside and outside to cut the deficit to 21-18, but a long 3-pointer by former Grand Junction Tiger Nich LeFebre sealed the title and kept KFC undefeated on the day.

The third place trophy at Hoop D’ Ville went to The Toons, a group made up largely of former Rifle Bears as Luis Carreon, Eduardo Ruiz, Fernando Flores, Rodrigo Ibarra, Armando Vasquez, and Ziga Plecnik rounded out the tournament’s podium.

Tournament director Mike Picore will donate all of the proceeds from this year’s event to the improvement and resurfacing of the Sayre Park Courts.

Froome keeps lead intact, set to secure 3rd Tour title

MORZINE, France — Chris Froome kept his lead intact during the final day of climbing in the Alps on Saturday and was poised to secure his third Tour de France title in four years.

“I still need to get the yellow jersey to Paris tomorrow but the race is done and dusted,” Froome said.

Spanish rider Jon Izagirre won the rainy penultimate stage by attacking on the slippery descent from the Col de Joux Plane into Morzine.

Froome, the Kenyan-born British rider who won the Tour in 2013 and 2015, eased up just before the line in the 20th stage and lost a few seconds to his main rivals.

Still, he ended the day with an advantage of 4 minutes, 5 seconds over Romain Bardet of France, with Nairo Quintana of Colombia third, 4:21 behind.

Froome let out a thin smile when he reached the finish as his Sky teammates cheered him on.

Froome is set to become the first rider to defend the Tour title since Miguel Indurain won the last of his five straight titles in 1995. Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven consecutive titles for doping.

The Tour concludes Sunday in Paris with a mostly ceremonial finish on the Champs-Elysees.

Froome wore bandages on his right knee and elbow after crashing on a slippery descent a day earlier. He was never in trouble in this stage, though, as his top lieutenants at Team Sky escorted him up and down each of the day’s four climbs.

“It’s been a really intense race. … It was incredible to cross the last finish line with my teammates,” Froome said. “They were with me for the entire Tour.”

On the final descent, which had a vertical drop of more than 700 meters (2,300 feet), Froome was extremely careful.

“There was no surprise because Chris Froome won. But for me it was not the same as in previous years,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme said, looking back to Froome’s attacks in Stages 8 and 11.

“When he attacked in the Peyrsourde descent it was such a surprise,” Prudhomme added. “And he did it again when he went with (Peter) Sagan in Montpellier. I liked it very much. Chris Froome was very good, his opponents less good.”

Jarlinson Pantano of Colombia finished second in the stage, 19 seconds behind Izagirre, while 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali crossed third, 42 seconds back. All three riders were part of an early breakaway.

Izagirre had enough time to clap his hands together in celebration as he crossed the line and secured his first career stage win in the Tour, having also won a stage in the 2012 Giro d’Italia.

Izagirre was in front on the descent when Pantano made a slight error and had to put his left foot to the ground to regain control, which also slowed Nibali.

Izagirre was clocked at 85 kph (53 mph) on the descent.

“I think my parents must have been scared watching at home,” he said. “I wanted to drop Nibali because I was worried about him in a sprint. … Beating Nibali in a downhill is something that counts in a career.”

Until this stage, Izagirre had been a support rider for Movistar teammate Quintana, a two-time Tour runner-up who had designs on winning this Tour.

“We came here with the yellow dream but Froome was the strongest,” Izagirre said. “At the end of the day, we’re happy with a spot on the podium, a stage win and the team’s classification victory.”

A minute of silence was held at the start of the stage to mourn the nine victims of Friday’s shooting in Munich. Froome and the other leaders of the Tour were joined by German national champion Andre Greipel at the front of the peloton as riders removed their helmets and stood silently.

Froome will likely be sipping Champagne in Sunday’s 113-kilometer (70-mile) leg from Chantilly to Paris, which should be decided in a mass sprint.