The British squad were able to control the main bunch throughout the mountain day of the Tour to Culoz, with very few attacks from their key rivals
Only Fabio Aru (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) made moves in earnest, but all of them lie three minutes or more down on GC.
Froome’s closest rivals, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) never made a move aside from when Froome feigned an attack on the final climb of Lacets du Grand Colombier.
Sky’s team principal Dave Brailsford said the team had been braced for attacks on the 160km slog through the mountains to Culoz, but said they never lost their control over the race over the six categorised climbs.
“Someone was going to take it up on the penultimate climb that’s for sure and today it was Astana, Brailsford said. “And to be fair [Diego] Rosa rode pretty hard there and put in a stint, and Aru was obliged then to put in an attack.
“It didn’t really come to anything and of course Valverde [attacked] to his credit but it didn’t work for him. Nairo didn’t move and neither did anybody else.”
“We were never out of control today,” he added, “and the situation was always managed. It looked like Chris could have gone, but with it being flatter on the run-in it was better to stay with teammates and just be on the safe side.”
Sky’s strong squad of climbers controlled most of the stage on the front as they’ve have done through much of the race, and many of the GC contenders behind either looked unable or unwilling to really test the British team’s super-domestiques.
The likes of Wout Poels and Mikel Nieve were extremely prominent on Sunday’s stage, while Mikel Landa and Sergio Henao have been able to take the main workload on other mountain days.
“I hope the contenders are afraid, it would be nice!” said Wout Poels.
“There were a few little attacks today but not any big, big attacks. Maybe they’re saving them for the last week, which also going to be a hard week.
“I expected a little bit more attacks but we had everything under control, we had good numbers in the front so that was really good. I didn’t see how he [Nairo] was today because I was all day pulling in the front!”
Even Froome himself admitted he was surprised to see the lack of action on the Hors Categorie penultimate climb of the stage.
Mollema only remains 1-27 down on Froome but his teammate Geraint Thomas hinted that many of those below his leader would now be looking to preserve their place in GC and not risk it with attacks.
“We always expect the worst and we always expect people to attack us,” said Thomas.
“We’re in a commanding position, and it’s a good position to be in especially with Froomey riding so strongly.
“As you go in to the last week they’re going to start trying to defend their positions, fifth or looking to try and get on the podium.
“And then other things come in to play like team GC and other things. Like I said we’re in a good position and we just have to keep doing what we’re doing.”