Chris Froome (Team Sky), fresh in a new yellow jersey from the Tour de France, walked with confidence into the press room on Wednesday for a post-race debriefing following the summit finish at the Emosson Dam in Switzerland.
He then repeated what his demeanour had already spelled out; he now feels at home wearing the prized leader’s jersey in the world’s biggest race.
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Froome will wear yellow for a 40th time in his career tomorrow when he time trials up the Côte des Chozeaux to Megève. He is now fifth on the all-time list, behind the great names of Jacques Anquetil with 50 days, Miguel Indurain with 60, Bernard Hinault with 75, and the peerless Eddy Merckx with 96.
“I think it’s about dealing with being in this position, being in the yellow jersey, sitting in press conferences every day,” Froome said to a room of about 200 international journalists following stage 17.
“For me, I’ve definitely become a lot more used to being here. Obviously, the first time you’re in this position it feels a bit daunting, it’s a bit of extra pressure, but this is the third time with this experience for me, and it does feel slightly easier. I’m certainly more relaxed in that sense.”
Froome helped Sky team-mate Bradley Wiggins win the Tour in 2012 and placed second overall. In 2013 and 2015, he returned to win the title.
After the summit finish to 1960 metres, above the dam and just miles from the French border, he leads the Tour de France with 2-27 minutes over Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and 2-53 minutes over young Brit Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange).
Sky, as it has every day so far, controlled the critical moments of the stage on Wednesday. Froome was alone only in the last kilometre, when he left behind teammates Mikel Nieve and Wout Poels to mark an attack by rival Richie Porte (BMC Racing). Even Sky admit that they are on a different level to their competitors at this year’s Tour.
“I think one of the big differences is that all eight team-mates of mine are focused on one goal. If you look at other teams, they’ve got a sprinter and a GC guy, or two GC guys, or riders going in breaks or going for stages. There are a lot of different things happening,” Froome added. “I’ve got nine guys here who are absolutely dedicated to one goal, and that makes a big difference.”
Today, he bridged with ease to Porte, and the two rode to the line together 7-59 minutes behind solo winner Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), but ahead of all of Froome’s rivals for the race overall.
Watch highlights of stage 17 of the Tour de France
“I don’t think it was really possible to go much faster there,” Froome explained, when asked why he was seemingly content to sit on Porte’s wheel. “Richie seemed to be doing just fine there on his own. Tactically there is no real need for me get on the front and starting pulling.”
Froome tomorrow faces a 17-kilometre uphill time trial, the second of four days in the Alps. He said that his performance against the clock would be “crucial” if he is to go on to win his third title when the race finishes in Paris on Sunday.