Froome and Sky look to wrap-up Tour de France
After spending the most part of the rest day telling journalists that he didn’t need to attack in the yellow jersey, Chris Froome did just that on the first climb of the Tour de France.
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It was like he couldn’t resist the chance to show his strength, especially after the data hacking allegations of Monday, and the ride was reminiscent of the Ventoux climb at the centre of that scandal.
With a 2-52 gap on the second-place rider, Tejay van Garderen, and 3-09 over Quintana in third, one would think that it would take a disaster for Froome to lose from here, but it’s not like we’ve not seen it before at the Tour.
Like his rivals showed today, it’s easy to lose four minutes on any given mountain, but if stage 10 is anything to go by it’d be surprising to see Froome just sit back from now on – rather increase his lead at any opportunity.
Richie Porte followed Froome over the line, with Geraint Thomas in sixth, as Team Sky dominated the tenth stage.
It was, of course, good tactics by the British team to get all their riders over the line as quick as possible so they can hot-foot it off to the hotel and grab all the best parking spaces…
Nibali can’t come back from here
While Froome flourished in his mountain playground, most of his rivals simply crumbled under the pressure. The biggest loser, though, was the defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, who looked to be cycling through treacle for most of the climb.
What was surprising about Nibali’s departure from the front group was just how quickly into the 15km climb it came; the Italian dropped off the pace in the first third of the ascent.
He also looked quite serene about seeing his chances of defending his title slip away, but as any cyclist knows when you’ve got nothing left to give there’s no point trying to push hard.
Finishing four minutes down was not actually as horrendous as it looked like it could have been for the Astana rider, but sitting just shy of seven minutes off the pace overall must end his title chances.
Will he have the desire and ambition for push for a high finish? Time will tell – as it will with Contador, who gave up nearly three minutes to Froome.
Contador admitted afterwards that he didn’t feel in good shape at any point during the climb and Froome and Quintana were more than keen to up the pace to get rid of him completely.
The Spaniard is totally focussed on winning the Giro-Tour double, but it looks as if he’s finding the going in the second half of that challenge a little bit too tough.
The French suffer on Bastille day
It’s been 10 years since a French rider won on Bastille Day and the streak is continuing for another year after the home riders again failed to tame their own mountains.
There were such high hopes for the legion of young climbers – touted as future Tour champions – but one by one they struggled to live up to the heavy expectations.
Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) fell off very early in the stage, seemingly hitting the ground thanks to a stray bidon; damaging his knee and elbow pretty badly in the fall.
Credit to the 23-year-old, he came back to finish 13th overall, five places behind the highest-placed Frenchman, Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
Many people backed Rolland to take the win today with the Europcar team desparately in need of some headlines due to their sponsporship problems for 2016, but Pierre wasn’t involved in much of the action at the front.
Thibaut Pinot’s Tour went from terrible to worse, being jettisoned from the peloton on the climb’s lower slopes and then rolling in 10 minutes down, just 70 seconds behind Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet.
Elder statesman Jean-Christophe Peraud fared slightly better in 25th, but still gave up over five minutes and didn’t look convincing on the ascent.
If only the organisers had planned for a short, punchy climb to end the Bastille Day stage, then Alexis Vuillermoz may have had a chance to end the drought.
Yates and Thomas
Froome got all the headlines, but let’s not forget about the two other Brits who stormed into the stage’s top-10 -Team Sky’s Thomas and Orica-GreenEdge’s Adam Yates.
For Thomas it was simply a case of carrying on up the mountain after guiding Froome up the lower slopes, but Yates was left to fend for himself, with Orica’s depleted numbers hardly suited for the high mountains.
Finishing sixth and seventh respectively, the pair beat a host of the world’s best climbers, including Contador, Nibali and van Garderen.
The great thing about this pair doing well on the climbs is that it’s not really a surprise to see them exceeding expectations. Thomas has long been touted as a future Grand Tour leader at Team Sky and has shown his ability in the mountains at the Tour de Suisse this year.
Yates, along with his brother Simon, has also been tagged as a Grand Tour winner in waiting and at the age of just 22 found himself in fairly prestigious company at the top of an hors categorie climb at the Tour de France.
Thomas has a lot of work still to do in order to guide Froome to overall victory, while the Yateses will be free to target stage wins between them, gaining valuable experience in the process.
Porte bumps up his asking price
It came as no surprise to hear that Porte is to leave Team Sky at the end of the year but it was a little surprising to hear that BMC were the front runners for his signature.
The Australian wants to be a Grand Tour leader – preferably at the Tour de France – but BMC look set on van Garderen heading up their team.
Porte’s agent will be very happy after his client’s performance on stage 10, with the rider’s salary demands now likely to rise a few Euros as he showed just what he can do.
Not only did he drive Froome and Quintana away from Contador on the early part of the climb, but he put his foot on the gas at the end of the ascent to ease past Quintana into second place on the day.
Van Garderen may be feeling a little less secure in his role given Porte’s performance – the Tasmanian beat him by 90 seconds – if the BMC rumours are confirmed to be true.
One thing’s for sure, though – Porte did nothing to hurt his reputation, putting in a champion’s performance despite working for someone else.
Check out Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour de France Specialized S-Works Tarmac