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Although Froome relinquished the maillot jaune to Tony Martin for two days in the 2015 Tour, this is the first time the Briton has lost the yellow jersey during the Tour to another general classification contender. So far during his career, Froome has worn the yellow jersey for 50 days.
However, stage 13’s short but mountainous 101km parcours from Saint Girons to Foix proved ideal for aggressive racing with Froome’s Sky squad the key instigators on the day.
Mikel Landa was sent up the road in an early breakaway and was eventually joined by Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). He finished 1-46 ahead of Froome and the other GC rivals to move up to fifth overall and give Sky a clear two-rider attack for the final week.
“If you gave us the yellow jersey back I think we’d figure it out, but at the minute it feels like a bit more fun to win it back,” Brailsford told reporters after the stage.
“It’s more enjoyable. We’ve been at this race for so long where all we do is defend, defend, defend, defend. The reason people love cycling and love Grand Tours is because of the suspense of it all and it’s the ‘what’s going to happen’ and the tactical options.
“I think it’s nice to be in the situation where we’re playing out and doing what attracted us all to the sport in the first place.
“It’s nice to race, and I think everybody at heart who loves this sport has got to be a racer and every now and again you’ve got to race. It feels like this is proper racing and it’s fun, it’s exciting. I’m really enjoying it.”
Watch: Tour de France stage 13 highlights
Sky’s directeur sportif Servais Knaven believes the aggressive racing seen in the Pyrenees will continue into the final week, with such small time gaps separating everyone.
“I think everyone will be really aggressive next week because it’s all so close together. If you take the top five, maybe top six, probably all of them think they can win the Tour,” he said.
“It depends how many guts they have, maybe there are also some guys who want to play for sure to be on the podium – so you don’t know. And now with Chris having his off day yesterday [stage 12] maybe more guys think they can win the Tour.
“It’s going to be really interesting next week.”
Knaven also said Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who escaped in the breakaway with Landa and gained time at the finish, should still be considered a contender for the victory having now moved up to eighth overall.
“He’s always a danger rider, and he’s always good in the final week. He’s for sure one rider to watch for.”