Froome moved from a 28-second lead over Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) to a 1-47-minute lead over Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) in today’s 37.5-kilometre time trial to La Caverne Du Pont-d’Arc.
“It’s big on the paper,” Sports Director Nicolas Portal said. “For sure it’s big, but we are never happy. We always want more.”
Prior to today, Froome gained time via baby steps: 23 seconds with a downhill attack off the Peyresourde, 12 seconds on the wind-ravaged roads to Montpellier and 19 seconds on the climb up Mont Ventoux.
Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) won on Friday, but Froome placed second and rode 2-05 minutes into top pre-Tour rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Quintana finished second to Froome in 2013 and 2015, but this year, looks like he might not do so. His attacks yesterday on Mont Ventoux appeared softer than usual and his time trial today did not help.
Instead of the Colombian, Sky’s immediate worry turns to Dutchman Bauke Mollema. Mollema, though sixth in the 2013 Tour behind Froome, never seriously challenged for the overall until now. Today, he only lost 51 seconds to Froome.
“I was thinking that with the crash of yesterday could cost him, it was small and sometimes with high-level athletes you can pay,” Portal said of Froome.
“Two minutes into Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde is great. Mollema is pretty good because he was super strong yesterday on Mont Ventoux. He’s the closest, he’s showing strong and stronger. He’s one of the guys we are going to look at now, more than before. We don’t rule out anyone.”
Mollema sat second overall in 2013, but after stage 16 suffered when he fell sick and placed sixth. He explained Sky already has a big enough advantage over him with the Alps ahead in the coming eight stages.
“The gap with Froome is still very big,” Mollema said. “I should be able to keep my podium, I’m older and more experienced and with good team support. But no, I can’t win the Tour.”