Chris Froome (Sky) leads the Tour de France by minutes and shows no sign of letting up – a troubling thought for his rivals on the second rest day in Provence.
After two weeks, he stands four-plus minutes ahead of his rivals. In the two summit finishes and the time trial, he gobbled up time. With more of the same type of stages on the horizon, Froome appears unbeatable.
Tomorrow morning in Vaison-la-Romaine, his opponents will put a smile on their faces for the final push to Paris. However, podium spots – meaning second and third – appear to be the only remaining places left to stand on the Champs-Élysées this Sunday.
“That is sport. You do everything you can to prepare. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) said on top of Mont Ventoux yesterday.
“I have to forget it and try to recover as best I can for the final week. I still want to get some sort of results, but to win, I have no chance.”
Evans lost time in the first mountain stage to Ax 3 Domaines. He sits in 16th place at 15 minutes back.
Froome’s closest rivals are Bauke Mollema (Belkin) in second at 4-14 minutes, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff, 3rd, 4-25), Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff, 4th, 4-28), Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin, 5th, 4-54) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar, 6th, 5-47).
Unlike Evans, who won the Tour and placed twice on the podium before, Dutchman Mollema would consider a podium spot his best result to date. His fight is not to over-take Froome, though that would not be bad, but to defend his current position.
“After Friday’s stage, I thought I could go for the yellow jersey, but that dream was after Mont Ventoux. Froome is by far the strongest climber and rider,” Mollema told Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf. “Now, it’s going be very difficult to grab the yellow jersey; over four minutes difference is a lot if time.”
Contador, who has two Tour titles under his belt, suffered a blow yesterday. His 1-40-minute loss ended his hopes.
“I came to this Tour to win, but Chris Froome is too strong,” he said. “Froome is superior to everyone else in the mountains. He showed it in the Pyrénées, and he showed it again [up Mont Ventoux].”
He explained in a press release today that he is unconcerned with second through tenth and that an upset, derailing Sky and Froome, remains his only option.
“If I see an opportunity,” he added. “I’ll take it. I’ll try.”
When Omega Pharma and Saxo-Tinkoff eliminated Alejandro Valverde on Friday, Quintana became team Movistar’s focus. The Colombian established his limits, however, after Froome rode away from him in the final of Mont Ventoux.
“The main goal is keeping up as long as possible,” he said in a team statement today. “Winning is certainly difficult: Froome is really strong, and even though his team is not as solid.”
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