Froome leads with 1-47 minutes over Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and 2-45 over Brit Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) with some of the hardest days to come. So far, though, Sky showed no weakness and in fact, had numbers for the summit finishes to Arcalís and Mont Ventoux.
Froome, speaking at the team’s rest day press conference, admitted that his team’s depth must discourage the others.
“I have strong team around me. It has to be discouraging for the other guys [to see] the guys riding around me and setting the tempo,” he said. “We are not going to get complacent because we have tough stages to come.”
Sky began the Tour with a climber heavy team in case one rider fell sick or crashed. Froome could draw on Geraint Thomas, Wout Poels, Mikel Nieve, Sergio Henao or Mikel Landa if the situation became tough.
“In the past, we’ve never had five guys who can stay there in the end on their day,” Thomas explained. “Frosty [Nieve] won the climber’s jersey at the Giro, Landa is a class rider, Wout, myself, and Henao, it’s just unbelievable, really.
“Like the other day, when I had a mechanical and lost the group, we still had two guys there. That’s why we brought so many climbers. We can still have two guys with Froome in a group of 15.”
A look ahead to the final week of the Tour de France
So far, it has not been that bad.
“The race has been that hard. People say that guys didn’t attack two stages ago [over the Grand Colombier to Culoz], but Aru attacked, Valverde attacked and Bardet attacked, the only guy who didn’t was Nairo Quintana. That’s who everyone was waiting for, but other people tried,” Froome explained.
“One of the reasons we haven’t seen those massive attacks is because the level of fatigue is up there, these stages have been full-gas, and it’s been tough on our side as well. We still have nine riders, everyone is healthy and we haven’t got any big injuries.”
Unless the Colombian climber Quintana finds an extra gear, it is hard to imagine Froome cracking and not riding into Paris for his third Tour title. Quintana sits fourth overall at 2-59.
“Nairo? It’s difficult to say, but last year he made up a lot of time in the last week. I expect he’ll be one of the main guys to put us under pressure,” Froome added.
“Coming into the last week, I’m more ready than I have been previously. Starting the racing later helped, a quieter run into the Tour helped that. I am on track to be at my best for the third week.
“I wouldn’t say the best is yet to come, but I wouldn’t say I am just hanging on like in the last Tours. I feel that I’m more ready for this third week than I have been in the last editions.”
Followers should not expect much from Froome. He said that with his advantage, he would not attack just for the sake of attacking.
“These next for days are so hard, any energy we spend now will take away from what we have to spend over these next four days. I feel as if I have even waiting for these next four days, and the other riders have, too.”