Tuesday 21 November 2017

Tour de France: Froome told to apply brakes as Sky take firm grip

Brendan Gallagher

BRADley WIGGINS extended his lead and Chris Froome moved into second place at the Tour de France yesterday after a staggering day of action over the hardest stage of this year's Tour, which ended with British riders first and second in the general classification.

An extraordinary sporting moment worth pondering, but not without a strange incident just over 3.5km from the finishing line.

Froome, who had appeared to be struggling moments earlier as Wiggins worked hard at the front of a small group to bridge a gap between himself and Vincenzo Nibali and Jurgen van den Broeck, then set off on a brief attack on his own before appearing to receive radio

insrtuctions and returning to his team leader's small group.

It was always Sky's intention after their team meeting at breakfast yesterday that Froome be given licence to attack in the final 500m to either gain line honours or put time into Cadel Evans, who was expected to be involved in the finale, but this forray up the road was much earlier than expected and seemed to take Wiggins and Sky by surprise.

Afterwards Froome, who did attack again with 500m to go to finish in third place to Wiggins' sixth, played the curious incident down. "I'll follow orders at all costs," he insisted. "I'm part of a team."

Wiggins, who is now two minutes and five seconds ahead of Froome, seemed unperturbed: "I was just really concentrating on my effort and keeping it constant. I'd been riding at the front for 1.5km-2km before that, we came down off that dip and up that climb, and I just wanted to clear the lactate and didn't want to make any more of an acceleration.

"There was a bit of confusion at that point as to what we were doing. I think he (Froome) showed today he had the legs. It was another great day for the team. I don't know who called him back. I didn't have a radio in at that point, my piece had fallen out."

The Sky team meeting last night will have been interesting, but if nothing else the confusion on the mountain yesterday underlines a real dilemma, namely that they now clearly have two riders capable of winning this year's Tour de France. It can be a strong tactical card to play but doesn't come without its own problems.

"You can never have too much of a good thing," says veteran directeur sportif Sean Yates.

"I reckon the fact that we've got such a strong second rider on our team is great. The fact that Chris lost one and half minutes in Liege is really unfortunate for him. If he hadn't, it'd be a lot closer. But the fact that he did makes the roles clearer until the situation is otherwise."

All of which shouldn't, but probably will, detract from an outstanding team effort by Sky on probably the most difficult day of the tour to control, which featured a phenomenal 59km turn by Michael Rogers at the front of the chasing peloton leading into the final climb before Richie Porte took over and then Froome before his brief sticky patch.

Reigning champion Cadel Evans, if not exactly cracking, lost 96 seconds to Wiggins and faces a massive task to get back into contention.

Nor should it detract from the impressive stage winner Pierre Rolland, who survived a nasty tumble on the decent of the Col du Mollard 32km out to remount, rejoin the break and eventually win by 55 seconds from fellow Frenchman Thibaut Pinaut. It was that sort of day. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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