Chris Froome took his biggest career win yet today on the first Tour de France climbing stage to La Planche des Belles Filles. It came thanks to Sky’s work up to the summit finish, where he and his team-mates rode Bradley Wiggins into the race lead.
“I saw that Bradley was right on my wheel and that he was not going to lose any time,” explained Froome. “I had the legs, I thought, ‘Right, let’s go for it’.”
Froome won a stage and placed second in the Vuelta a España last year. Today, after 199 kilometres, he won on top of La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges mountains. As a result of his work, he also took the king of the mountains polka-dot jersey.
He started working at 2.1 kilometres to race in the 5.9km climb. Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, Michael Rogers and Richie Porte pulled in the earlier parts of the climb.
“Richie set a fantastic pace going up that climb, he dropped so many riders,” Froome added. “He left me just to ride steady and set things up. We went to look at the course after the [Critérium du] Dauphiné and knew that last kick would be hard. Maybe it surprised people.”
Froome led Wiggins, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis) to the line. Overall favourites Denis Menchov (Katusha) and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) were already dropped.
Evans charged to the front of the group for the first time with 500 metres to race. Froome used him as a lead out to go for the win.
“It wasn’t really the plan for me to go for the stage win, but I saw Bradley was in a position where it wouldn’t affect him,” Froome said.
“I thought why not put in an acceleration and see how Cadel responds, but there was no real response… I thought he would go when the road kicked up if he did go. When it did kick up, he never really went. For me, it says one thing, that he didn’t really have the legs to go… Hopefully he’s not holding anything back and we can hold him over the remainder of the race. He and Bradley look on par at the moment.”
Froome worked for Wiggins in last year’s Vuelta until the final stages, when Sky backed him to second overall. Wiggins placed behind in third overall.
At the Tour, his goal is to help Wiggins win the race, which he did today. The goal became clearer after he lost time on the first road stage to Seraing. Today’s win was a little something for Wiggins’ super domestique.
“I told Chris to save a bit with 1.5km, shouting at him. I knew we were going well,” said Wiggins.
“Just for him to win the stage after his misfortune this week. He got his stage win now and that’s good since he’s going to be working for me in the next two weeks.”
Wiggins leads the race by 10 seconds over Evans. Froome is ninth overall at 1-32 minutes.
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