Team Sky‘s Dave Brailsford says that the team would have been less “concerned” and wouldn’t have ridden as hard as BMC Racing did to control the Tour de France‘s fifth stage to La Planche des Belles Filles today.
BMC led the race with its red and black train for much of the afternoon towards the final summit finish. Sky took over only for the final 5.9-kilometre climb.
Sky leader Chris Froome finished 16 seconds behind stage winner Fabio Aru (Astana). BMC leader Richie Porte finished with Froome’s group, but lost four seconds due to Froome’s time bonus for finishing in third place.
“I’m not sure we would’ve ridden as hard or been as concerned [as BMC],” said Sky general manager David Brailsford. “It was perfect. Thanks for that!
“Richie Porte? I think everyone was up there who was still in the top ten on GC and who will put in a good performance, and that’s it. BMC did the work and Richie obviously did his best.”
Porte accused Sky and Froome of playing mind games with him ahead of the Tour de France. He insisted Froome is the favourite for the race, despite Sky saying the opposite based on Porte’s performances this spring and in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Though Sky had the leader’s jersey with Geraint Thomas, it was BMC Racing who worked hardest. It maintained the distance on an eight-man move that included Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) and Jan Bakelants (Ag2r La Mondiale).
“Nobody was quite sure how today would pan out,” continued Brailsford. “To be fair to BMC, they laid out their intent straight away, they made no qualms about what they were going to do.
“It shacked out on the climb. Chris confirmed that he’s in good shape and is increasing his form, which was our expectation, but it was always nice to see that confirmed.”
Watch highlights from stage five of the Tour de France
Froome came into the Tour de France without a win this season. Some questioned whether he was up to his usual level, especially after his slightly below par performance in the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.
“No, it was not a concern,” Brailsford said of Froome’s form, “but it’s always nice to have it confirmed. It’s not an exact science, but as he gets older and more confident, he knows himself so well now, and he managed himself brilliantly today.
“Off the back of that, Aru timed his attacked to perfection off the back of that flat section. Fair play to him. I’m happy with the rest of the results.”
Thomas faded from the lead and finished 10th on the stage, 20 seconds behind Froome. He now sits 12 seconds behind his team captain in second overall in the general classification.
“It’s always a bit of strange scenario when you have a yellow jersey with Geraint and Chris. You have to respect the yellow jersey, you have to respect Geraint, so it always adds another dimension to it slightly,” said Brailsford.
“I think Geraint is going to ride himself into this race. He would prefer the longer duration climbs. Those suit him better. He’ll be optimistic going into the longer, bigger mountains.”