Sky had the Tour de France’s 16th stage to Bagnères-de-Luchon under control, according to Chris Froome. He said that he and race leader, Bradley Wiggins were comfortable despite Vincenzo Nibali’s attackers.
“Worried? Not really, to be honest,” Froome said. “Yeah, it was hard at the end of a long day, it hurts, but Brad and I both know they [Nibali’s attacks] weren’t really going anywhere. We were quite within ourselves there at the end.”
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Froome spoke to a group of five journalists after cooling down on the bus. He helped Wiggins come one step closer to winning the Tour in Paris on Sunday.
He brought back Nibali after two attacks with around three kilometres to race up the Col de Peyresourde. The third attack, through a tunnel of fans, Wiggins pulled back.
Team Principal David Brailsford was impressed with the effort, which sets up the team for first and second in Paris.
“Look at him [Froome], he’s as fresh as a daisy,” Brailsford said. “Like a Sunday clubber.”
Some experts said that if Nibali of team Liquigas-Cannondale failed to gain time today over Wiggins then he would be unable to win the Tour. He trails Wiggins by 2-23 minutes.
“We were very comfortable there. I don’t think he was really going anywhere,” Froome added. “I mean it’s great that he was able to put in those moves, but I he was only getting 50 metres or so, and then we were bringing him back.”
“We saw at the end, it was just down to three, there’s not many people left in the race,” Wiggins explained. “I’m just glad we passed the test as a team… It was tough going out there.”
The trio moved clear of their rivals. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) placed in a group 58 seconds back. Defending champion, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) was nearly five minutes back.
Nibali now sits safe in third overall by just over three minutes on Van den Broeck.
“He’s in a good position,” Froome said. “He’s obviously now securing his third position a lot better by having dropped a lot of the other favourites. So, it was in our interest to work together and just keep it going.”
Froome must help Wiggins defend in one more key mountain stage, tomorrow’s summit finish to Peyragudes.
“Sky was too strong today,” Nibali said. “I’m aiming for the podium. I’d still like to win the stage tomorrow, but it’s getting too hard to open the door.”
Tour de France 2012: Latest news
Tour de France 2012: Teams, riders, start list
Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Stage 16: Voeckler the Pyrenean king as he wins in Bagneres de Luchon
Stage 15: Fedrigo wins, day off for peloton
Stage 14: Sanchez solos to Foix victory to save Rabobank’s Tour
Stage 13: Greipel survives climb and crosswinds to win third Tour stage
Stage 12: Millar wins Tour stage nine years from his last
Stage 11: Wiggins strengthens Tour lead as Evans slips back
Stage 10: Voeckler wins and saves his Tour
Stage nine: Wiggins destroys opposition in Besancon TT
Stage eight: Pinot solos to Tour win as Wiggins fights off attacks
Stage seven: Wiggins takes yellow as Froome wins stage
Stage six: Sagan wins third Tour stage
Stage five: Greipel wins again as Cavendish fades
Stage four: Greipel wins stage after Cavendish crashes
Stage three: Sagan runs away with it in Boulogne
Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory
Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second
Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries
Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage
Tour de France 2012: Related links