After Team Sky controlled the Tour de France‘s 15th stage through the Jura mountains on Sunday, their rivals say that it is useless to attack given the team’s domination and lack of summit finish to make ground.
Chris Froome maintained his 1-47-minute lead over Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) over the Grand Colombier. The team nullified the attacks of Fabio Aru (Astana) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) with Wout Poels and Mike Nieve doing the muscle-work for their leader.
Some critics, even Sky, thought that Movistar with Nairo Quintana or other classification teams should have attacked and tried to isolate Froome before the finish in Culoz.
“It’s not fear of Sky, but that they have an advantage in the classification that allows them to be calmer. The team is doing what it wants,” Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzué said.
“I can’t say what the other teams are doing… We had Valverde try with Aru for a moment, but Poels immediately controls it, gives it a little bit more gas, and controls everything. After with Bardet, he did the same thing. It’s Poels, or then it’s Landa, or then another. Above all, Poels is incredible.”
Watch highlights of stage 15 of the Tour de France
Quintana, who placed second overall behind Froome the two times he previously won the Tour, warmed down and spoke briefly before climbing in Movistar’s bus.
“We couldn’t make any movement against Team Sky,” Quintana added. “They showed in the climbs that they are the strongest in the race at this moment. Alejandro tried to attack, but Poels caught him. I didn’t try because it was a very hard day and we hadn’t any chance. We’ll try our best in the third week”
“Is his morale low? No. He’s just realistic,” Unzué continued. “Today, we could have attacked and gained some seconds, but then you have to risk a lot on the descent and riding six kilometres on the flat.”
Aru, winner of the Vuelta a España, tried to attack on the second time up the Colombier, but could not make much ground.
“We tried to make it hard, but Sky was truly hard,” Aru said. “I tried. Sky still had two men behind making pace. I just had to try, though.”
“We have to try something and not just stay on their wheels,” explained Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli.
“If we stay on Sky’s wheels, they will take us all the way to Paris. Why waste time? We can just leave now for Paris if we are going to do that.”
The race heads to Bern, Switzerland, on Monday and then stops for a rest day on Tuesday ahead of its final mountain stages in the Alps.
“I saw it Dauphiné and I see this race, it seems like a photocopy,” added Martinelli. “In the Dauphiné, we had some escapes win and some attacks, but everyone just marked [Froome] all the way to the final day.”
The big classification change came off the back of the group, not the front. When Bardet tried to attack free, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) lost ground and finished the day 1-28 minutes back. The American WorldTour team will now likely back Richie Porte in the overall classification.
“Sky has the horsepower to control the group,” BMC‘s manager, Jim Ochowicz said. “Unless you have someone in the group who can power away from them and get a gap, it’s going to stay the way it is. Richie tried on Mont Ventoux and made some gaps to the others. It can happen, but it’s going to come in little pieces, not all in one bite.”