After the summit finish on the Col d’Izoard on Thursday, neither Uran or Bardet – Froome’s closest challengers in the general classification fight – were unable to eat into the Sky man’s lead.
Bardet picked up four bonus seconds but finished on the same time as Froome, while Uran lost two seconds following a finishing climb that was devoid of the fireworks that were hoped and anticipated. Bardet is 23 seconds shy of Froome’s lead, while Uran is 29 seconds down.
With probably only one stage to make a difference in the overall standings now – Saturday’s 22.5km technical time trial around the streets of Marseille – Cannondale-Drapac boss Jonathan Vaughters has admitted that Uran’s hope of a shock victory are slim.
“It would take an enormous turn of chance for it to go another way,” he told Cycling Weekly. “We’re going to race on Friday, Saturday and right to the line. You never know what will happen, but, listen, we’d have to be phenomenally lucky to turn it around this point, and Bardet too.”
Vaughters said that he expected both Uran and Bardet to attack Froome on the slopes of the Alpine pass, but conceded that Sky executed their tactics flawlessly.
He reacted: “We knew there had to be a situation where [Mikel] Landa was in trouble before they would have been able to attack but that never happened. Landa was never in trouble and wasn’t even close to being in trouble.
“We knew the difficult part to get to Froome was to get through Landa and, quite frankly, Sky played that really well in that they had Landa attack, as opposed to ride rhythm early on.
“Bardet and Rigo ended up spending their energy getting Landa back before they could even attack Froome. Rigo doesn’t have the power to overcome two guys like that, and neither does Bardet. Sky teed it up perfectly well.”
Uran is seen as the better time triallist to Bardet so should be looking at securing a second-place finish in Paris. Asked if the Colombian could overturn the 29 second deficit he has to Froome, Vaughters was doubtful, saying that Froome’s bike-handing skills are no longer a problem for him.
“Froome has definitely improved his technical skills on the bike,” he added. “A few years ago you could say that [Froome would struggle in a technical time trial] but he has made big improvements in his cornering.”