Sky team-mates Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome appeared uncomfortable with each other today as they rode to certain Tour de France victory up the Peyragudes climb.

An accelaration by Wiggins dropped their main rival rival Vincenzo Nibali, but once they had done that they seemed unsure of what to do next.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was up the road having attacked the escape group on the Col de Peyresourde and looked ready to clinch the stage on the short ramp up Peyragudes. In the final kilometres Wiggins and Froome looked like they could catch him, but instead they looked at each other, exchanged words, and rode with uncertainty on the Peyragudes.

Froome protected Wiggins’ lead and rode at the front, but he could have gone faster still. On a few occasions he had to slow down. He looked back at Wiggins several times as if to be searching for the OK to chase Valverde and go for the stage win. Had he succeeded it would have been his second stage win and gained him extra time on Nibali who sits third overall, one place behind him.

Eventually they crossed the line together, 19 second behind Valverde. Froome took second and Wiggins third and they both put another 18 seconds in to Nibali. Froome now has a 36 second buffer over Nibali with one key stage left to race; Saturday’s long time trial. Journalists circled them at the finish and asked, “What happened?”

“We were talking about Nibali. We knew he was on his limit. Chris said he wanted to go for the stage and I said yes. We weren’t too sure of the time gaps,” Wiggins explained.

“The moment we crossed the Peyresourde, I allowed myself to drift and that was the first time I thought maybe I’ve won the Tour today. All the way up that last climb my concentration had gone, everything about performance had gone. Chris was egging me on to take more time and I was in another world, really.”

Froome rode to Sky’s team camper parked off to the side of the finish line at 1,605 metres above sea level. He put on a warm jacket and reflected on the stage.

“It was the plan to do the job to retain the yellow jersey, to protect it,” he said to French television. “Everybody makes sacrifices, [Mark] Cavendish makes sacrifices everyday, everybody in the team makes sacrifices for the yellow jersey. It’s cycling, it’s our sport.”

Wiggins spoke about Froome’s support in this Tour de France later in the press conference.

“He’s been absolutely solid for me the whole Tour,” Wiggins explained. “He’s just one less thing to worry about. If he was in an opposing team then you’d constantly have that battle all the time. Yeah, so I think… It don’t take a rocket scientist to work it out, you’d rather have him in your camp than in someone else’s. He’s an incredible climber.”

Froome re-signed for team Sky for another three years after placing second in last year’s Vuelta a España. He appeared to be the best climber in this Tour and some say that he could have won the race.

“Maybe [the chance to win] it’s not going to happen again. That would be bad,” Froome continued. “But I’m 27 and I hope I’ll be luckier later.”

Tour de France 2012: Latest news
Froome: Nibali’s attacks weren’t going anywhere
Wiggins’ Tour de France training
Voigt tries to carry on as RadioShack’s future seems in doubt
Frank Schleck positive for banned substance at Tour
Rest day review (July 17)
Defending Tour champ Evans has work to do in Pyrenees
Sprinters’ teams unwilling to work on stage 15
Evans suffers multiple punctures after Tour tack attack
Froome not winning this year’s Tour is ‘very great sacrifice’
Frank Schleck criticises ‘boring’ Tour de France

Tour de France 2012: Teams, riders, start list
Tour 2012: Who will win?
Tour de France 2012 start list and withdrawals
Tour de France 2012 team list

Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Stage 17: Wiggins step closer to Paris as Valverde wins stage
Stage 16: Voeckler the Pyrenean king as he wins in Bagneres de Luchon
Stage 15: Fedrigo wins, day off for peloton
Stage 14: Sanchez solos to Foix victory to save Rabobank’s Tour
Stage 13: Greipel survives climb and crosswinds to win third Tour stage
Stage 12: Millar wins Tour stage nine years from his last
Stage 11: Wiggins strengthens Tour lead as Evans slips back
Stage 10: Voeckler wins and saves his Tour
Stage nine: Wiggins destroys opposition in Besancon TT
Stage eight: Pinot solos to Tour win as Wiggins fights off attacks
Stage seven: Wiggins takes yellow as Froome wins stage
Stage six: Sagan wins third Tour stage
Stage five: Greipel wins again as Cavendish fades
Stage four: Greipel wins stage after Cavendish crashes
Stage three: Sagan runs away with it in Boulogne
Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory
Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second

Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
Analysis: What we learned at La Planche des Belles Filles
Analysis: How much time could Wiggins gain in Tour’s time trials
CW’s Tour de France podcasts
Blog: Tour presentation – chasing dreams and autographs
Comment: Cavendish the climber

Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries
Stage 17 by Graham Watson
Stage 16 by Graham Watson
Stage 15 by Graham Watson
Stage 14 by Graham Watson
Stage 13 by Graham Watson
Stage 12 by Graham Watson
Stage 11 by Graham Watson
Stage 10 by Graham Watson
Stage nine by Graham Watson
Stage eight by Graham Watson
Stage seven by Graham Watson
Stage six by Graham Watson
Stage five by Graham Watson
Stage four by Graham Watson
Stage three by Graham Watson
Stage two by Andy Jones
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones
Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler
Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2012: Team presentation
Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce

Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage
Stage 17 live coverage
Stage 16 live coverage
Stage 12 live coverage
Stage 11 live coverage
Stage 10 live coverage
Stage nine live coverage
Stage six live coverage
Stage five live coverage
Stage four live coverage
Stage three live coverage
Cycling Weekly’s live text coverage schedule

Tour de France 2012: TV schedule
ITV4 live schedule
British Eurosport live schedule

Tour de France 2012: Related links
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Brief history of the Tour de France
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
1989: The Greatest Tour de France ever

 

  • Mark Jones

    I have to agree with Chris (the first reader to comment and not Froome!). Where was everyone with their prediction that Froome was going to win at the start? What’s disappointing is that no-one else could put up a challenge on Wiggins other than his team mate, so why on earth should Sky have changed their tactics? If United were beating City 6-0 you wouldn’t hear Ferguson asking his players to score a few own goals to make it more interesting.

  • Matt

    If only Froome hadn’t lost that 1’25” on the first stage after puncturing. It would have made it more interesting in the mountains!

  • Phil Riley

    It certainly looked like Chris Froome could have gone away and caught Valverde but imagine this scenario. Froome goes up the road, the group are spred all over the last couple of kilometers of the climb with presumably the team cars behind them all and Wiggins chain snaps. Maybe that’s why Froome stayed with his TEAM LEADER.

  • SJH

    Chris will get his chance. Brad is absolutely true to his word and if it is a mountain heavy tour next year, he’ll work like a slave for Froome. Bradley recognises what people do for him and the value of loyalty. Chris will thank himself for doing a good job this year when HE needs help.

  • Greg

    Funny how there is always uncertainty re time gaps when Froome is about to do something spectacular. And in the vuelta with the confusion over a bonus sprint, inability to switch strategy, Froome hanging/being held back.

    Not part of the old track set-up? Forget it.

    Reminds me of boring English rugby. Wins, yes, but dull.

  • Ade

    Froome should of gone worst case senario if Nibali caught wiggins, wiggins just had to sit on his wheel and the last K was down hill. They also both said afterwards they knew Nibali was done nuff said.

  • Andrew

    The most boring tour I’ve see in 32 years. I don’t know who is the most tired. The cyclists or the viewers who watched.
    Froome’s called back attack may have been the highlight …sadly …..he could have won.

  • paul

    Froome – the ultimate team mate. Chapeau.

  • Terry

    CW- I want a bloody great big poster in next weeks issue, Brad on one side and Cav being led up the finish in Paris by Brad on the other !!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you.

    I think I’ve died and gone to heaven ……………………………

  • adam

    Firstly, what a brilliant photo of Wiggins!!! A well deserved smug grin!!!
    Secondly, I really hope the last few stages go as planned and Wiggins wins the Tour and we can celebrate something amazing and fantastic… It really would be brilliant!
    Thirdly, well done to Froome for today. I think you could’ve gone up the road and won and still not damaged the GC. But that’s an easy observation from my arm chair. As you say, today was about the Yellow Jersey. End of.
    Finally, I really really hope Wiggins can one day re-pay Froome for his dedication in 2012. I’m sure that day will come.
    Well done lads. Absolutely chuffed for you!

  • Bagpuss

    Well, good luck to Bradley Wiggins for this year’s tour, AND good luck to Chris Froome for next year’s tour win?

  • Chris

    I am pleased Wiggins came out and said what happened to stop the stories and false “in camp” arguments.

    I seemed to have missed all the people calling for Froome to go on and win the tour before it started. The tour is a 12 month plan, or even 3-4 year plan, you don’t go changing it with 10-14 stages left when your leader is wearing yellow. Some people need to understand how these things work.

    Viva la Wiggo, will be cheering from the grandstand in Paris on Sunday!