Chris Froome (Sky) said he was prepared for more attacks from the Movistar riders who surrounded on the final climb of the Tour de France today. But the loss of his teammate Richie Porte as a danger man on the general classification leaves the British squad more tactically exposed, he admitted.
In the stage 9 press conference after a tough day of intriguing racing over five Pyrenean climbs, Froome said, "I was definitely prepared for it on that final climb thinking ‘OK, this is where they are going to put me under pressure' and I was ready for it - I was quite within myself on that last climb."
Despite the superior numbers of Movistar riders and the loss of Froome's key teammates Richie Porte and Peter Kennaugh as support riders – the Spanish squad failed to put an isolated Froome under enough pressure to erode his 1:25 advantage over Alejandro Valverde.
The race's white jersey, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) probed Froome with four attacks on the final climb, the Hourquette d'Ancizan, but each time the yellow jersey answered back.
"It's not easy to follow Quintana in the climbs," Froome reflected. "He's a light little Colombian who can fly up them, so to cover his attacks definitely wasn't easy. I was ready for more attacks but I'm quite glad there weren't."
Froome's biggest blow today was losing the tactical advantage of having a teammate in second place on general classification. Porte lost touch with Froome's group before the second climb, and despite trying to chase back on he finished almost 18 minutes behind stage winner Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp).
"It's always better to be able to have two cards to be able to play in that respect and having Richie in second place was huge boost for me knowing that he was right there.
"He could at any point put any rivals under pressure in that sense so that leaves us a little more exposed but I'm sure he's going to be with us all the way to Paris and helping me to try to keep yellow."