Wiggins and Froome explain Tour stage 17 final climb debate

Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, Tour de France 2012, stage 17

Sky team-mates Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome appeared uncomfortable with each other today as they rode to certain Tour de France victory up the Peyragudes climb.

An accelaration by Wiggins dropped their main rival rival Vincenzo Nibali, but once they had done that they seemed unsure of what to do next.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was up the road having attacked the escape group on the Col de Peyresourde and looked ready to clinch the stage on the short ramp up Peyragudes. In the final kilometres Wiggins and Froome looked like they could catch him, but instead they looked at each other, exchanged words, and rode with uncertainty on the Peyragudes.

Froome protected Wiggins' lead and rode at the front, but he could have gone faster still. On a few occasions he had to slow down. He looked back at Wiggins several times as if to be searching for the OK to chase Valverde and go for the stage win. Had he succeeded it would have been his second stage win and gained him extra time on Nibali who sits third overall, one place behind him.

Eventually they crossed the line together, 19 second behind Valverde. Froome took second and Wiggins third and they both put another 18 seconds in to Nibali. Froome now has a 36 second buffer over Nibali with one key stage left to race; Saturday's long time trial. Journalists circled them at the finish and asked, "What happened?"

"We were talking about Nibali. We knew he was on his limit. Chris said he wanted to go for the stage and I said yes. We weren't too sure of the time gaps," Wiggins explained.

"The moment we crossed the Peyresourde, I allowed myself to drift and that was the first time I thought maybe I've won the Tour today. All the way up that last climb my concentration had gone, everything about performance had gone. Chris was egging me on to take more time and I was in another world, really."

Froome rode to Sky's team camper parked off to the side of the finish line at 1,605 metres above sea level. He put on a warm jacket and reflected on the stage.

"It was the plan to do the job to retain the yellow jersey, to protect it," he said to French television. "Everybody makes sacrifices, [Mark] Cavendish makes sacrifices everyday, everybody in the team makes sacrifices for the yellow jersey. It's cycling, it's our sport."

Wiggins spoke about Froome's support in this Tour de France later in the press conference.

"He's been absolutely solid for me the whole Tour," Wiggins explained. "He's just one less thing to worry about. If he was in an opposing team then you'd constantly have that battle all the time. Yeah, so I think... It don't take a rocket scientist to work it out, you'd rather have him in your camp than in someone else's. He's an incredible climber."

Froome re-signed for team Sky for another three years after placing second in last year's Vuelta a España. He appeared to be the best climber in this Tour and some say that he could have won the race.

"Maybe [the chance to win] it's not going to happen again. That would be bad," Froome continued. "But I'm 27 and I hope I'll be luckier later."

Tour de France 2012: Latest news

Froome: Nibali's attacks weren't going anywhere

Wiggins' Tour de France training

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Frank Schleck positive for banned substance at Tour

Rest day review (July 17)

Defending Tour champ Evans has work to do in Pyrenees

Sprinters' teams unwilling to work on stage 15

Evans suffers multiple punctures after Tour tack attack

Froome not winning this year's Tour is 'very great sacrifice'

Frank Schleck criticises 'boring' Tour de France

Tour de France 2012: Teams, riders, start list

Tour 2012: Who will win?

Tour de France 2012 start list and withdrawals

Tour de France 2012 team list

Tour de France 2012: Stage reports

Stage 17: Wiggins step closer to Paris as Valverde wins stage

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

Analysis: What we learned at La Planche des Belles Filles

Analysis: How much time could Wiggins gain in Tour's time trials

CW's Tour de France podcasts

Blog: Tour presentation - chasing dreams and autographs

Comment: Cavendish the climber

Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries

Stage 17 by Graham Watson

Stage 16 by Graham Watson

Stage 15 by Graham Watson

Stage 14 by Graham Watson

Stage 13 by Graham Watson

Stage 12 by Graham Watson

Stage 11 by Graham Watson

Stage 10 by Graham Watson

Stage nine by Graham Watson

Stage eight by Graham Watson

Stage seven by Graham Watson

Stage six by Graham Watson

Stage five by Graham Watson

Stage four by Graham Watson

Stage three by Graham Watson

Stage two by Andy Jones

Stage two by Graham Watson

Stage one by Graham Watson

Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones

Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler

Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2012: Team presentation

Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce

Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage

Stage 17 live coverage

Stage 16 live coverage

Stage 12 live coverage

Stage 11 live coverage

Stage 10 live coverage

Stage nine live coverage

Stage six live coverage

Stage five live coverage

Stage four live coverage

Stage three live coverage

Cycling Weekly's live text coverage schedule

Tour de France 2012: TV schedule

ITV4 live schedule

British Eurosport live schedule

Tour de France 2012: Related links

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

Brief history of the Tour de France

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index

1989: The Greatest Tour de France ever


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