Chris Froome united forces with rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) to bury their Tour de France opponents on Sunday’s stage two, with the Sky rider confirming the pair spoke about taking advantage of the split in the peloton.
Combining their forces, they blasted ahead on the wind-swept coast of Netherlands and left several behind, including Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
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Froome, covered in grit from the wet and windy day to Zélande, arrived at Sky’s black bus with a 1m28 gap on his rivals on the stage. Added to the times from day one’s time trial down the road in Utrecht, he leads the ‘Fab Four’ into the third day.
At the finish, where the wind died down and the sun came back out, the results sheet read well for 2013 Tour winner Froome. The tall Kenya-born Brit has 12 seconds on Contador, and a relatively large 1-21-minute gap on Nibali and 2-39 on Quintana.
“We did talk out on the bike,” Froome said about his interactions with Contador in the lead group. “He did say: ‘Listen, we have the gap, let’s commit to this move now, both buy into this,’
“We also had BMC do the same with Tejay [van Garderen] up there. We were all aware of the situation.”
Froome’s guards – with Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard – worked with Contador’s helpers Peter Sagan, Daniele Bennati and Michael Rogers. Van Garderen had five helpers in the mix of 26 cyclists that stormed clear with around 50 kilometres remaining.
Nibali was held up by a crash, but once he returned, his Astana team worked with Movistar led by Brit Alex Dowsett for Quintana. The group also contained stage one winner and former race leader, Rohan Dennis. He sat up while team-mate van Garderen gained time.
“We actually found out that it was a smaller group and that some of the GC guys had been distanced,” Froome explained about the escape that formed.
“It was chaos out there for a few minutes with the storm and the winds. Nibali too… One second he was right next to me, I couldn’t actually believe it when I heard that he was distanced, but that’s the nature of the racing up here in Holland.”
The racing style suited Sky, who brought classics men like Thomas, Stannard and Luke Rowe to the Tour de France. They blasted clear with the help of Tinkoff and Etixx, who worked for Mark Cavendish’s sprint, and helped Froome deliver a sizable mental blow to his top rivals.
“I’m just glad it worked out the way it did, that I had the support from my team-mates when I needed it. They definitely proved their worth today,” Froome said.
“This is a huge advantage for us now, sitting in this position after one flat day, that’s fantastic. We are ahead today, but who knows what’s in store in store for us for the rest of the week.”
The week holds more tricky stages. On Monday the Tour rips through Belgium’s flatlands before finishing on the sharp and short Mur de Huy climb that closes the Flèche Wallonne Classic each year. On Tuesday, the riders face some of the same cobblestone sectors used in the Paris-Roubaix.
There are still many more days to come, including the high mountains, but Froome sits pretty so far this Tour de France.
Watch highlights from stage two of the Tour de France