Dave Brailsford says that having powerful Classics style riders like Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas in the Team Sky squad has rubbed off on Chris Froome, allowing him to go on the offensive at the Tour de France when his GC rivals might not.
Froome took six seconds on his rivals in the crosswinds of the 11th stage of the Tour to Montpellier on Wednesday, after Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) attacked with his teammate Maciej Bodnar with around 10km to go.
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Thomas was able to join his team leader in the break, and it’s Froome’s fellow Brits that have instilled the confidence for him to make time gains on flat or transitional stages, says Team Sky boss Brailsford.
“Ultimately when you look at the team that Chris has got here in Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas, you’ve got three of the best one-day Classics riders in the crosswinds and that gives them a lot of confidence,” Brailsford said.
“When we woke up for breakfast this morning everyone was like ‘woah, strong winds’ and Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe were punching the air and loving it.”
“And it rubs off on Chris and he knows he’s going to be well positioned and knows it’s highly unlikely he’s going to miss an echelon with those guys if he sticks with them.”
Froome currently sits 28 seconds on top of the GC ahead of Britain’s Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) and 35 seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and has shown his team’s strength in the mountains with the likes of Mikel Landa, Wout Poels and Sergio Henao riding on the front throughout the Pyrenean stages.
But it’s not the first time Sky have shown their strength over the likes of Movistar in the windy stages with their British contingent, with Froome taking a significant amount of time out of Quintana in the 2015 edition on the second stage from Utrecht to Zeeland in the Netherlands.
“[Having these teammates] makes you think more offensively than it does defensively, so you’re not looking to not lose to time, you’re looking to think if there’s any chance of gaining any time,” Brailsford said of Froome on the flat stages.
“He’s raced well this year and he’s gone on the attack and who knows when it’s going to get him; we might pay for it, we might not.
“That’s the Tour de France, its unpredictable, at any moment you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“It’s not been the same format [this year] as it has been the last few years but the crosswind last year is probably the stage where he gained the most time early on and so its not a total surprise to see him chipping away on some of the more flatter or transitional stages…”
Watch: Tour de France stage 11 highlights
Despite the small amount of time Froome took on the stage 11 and in his daring attack off the Col de Peyresourde on stage eight, his real gains are still likely to be made in the mountains.
And while Brailsford says it’s disappointing to miss out on the finish atop Mont Ventoux on Thursday’s stage 12, with 100kmph winds forcing organisers to shorten the climb to 6km from the summit, their could still be carnage caused by the winds to the foot of the climb.
“It’s a shame actually because its one of the most iconic days in the Tour de France on Ventoux, so it’s a shame it’s been shortened,” Brailsford added.
“It will make a difference, and if it’s as windy as it’s predicted to be I think the difference will be the first 100km getting to the bottom of the climb; it’s a proper with a cross wind all the way.
“If that’s the case it’ll be about who gets to the bottom of the climb and where. So it’ll be a proper day’s racing.”