After reining in his efforts in the mountains in order to shepherd yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome (Sky) will have the freedom to chase stage victory in the final time trial of the Tour de France from Bonneval to Chartres on Saturday.
The Sky pair isset to occupy the top two steps of the podium, and on the past three occasions that riders from the same team have done so, the final time trial has been won by the man who would finish second overall.
In 1996, Jan Ullrich soundly defeated his Telekom stable mate Bjarne Riis at Saint-Émilion, while in 1986, Bernard Hinault beat Greg Lemond in Saint-Etienne, which was the reverse of the previous year’s concluding time trial in Lac de Vassivière.
Regardless of the historical precedent, Froome insisted that his aim over the 53.5km course was simply to defend his overall position rather than to inflict a time trial defeat on Wiggins.
“I’m not looking it as me against Bradley,” Froome said in Brive-La-Gaillarde on Friday. “I’m just looking to finish it off and get to Paris. It would be great if we could keep our standings on general classification, let’s just touch wood that nothing goes wrong. Everyone’s tired after three weeks of racing and I think everyone’s just looking forward to getting there.”
Froome and Wiggins dominated proceedings in the race’s first long time trial in Besançon on the eve of the opening rest day, finishing first and second ahead of no less a figure than Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan). With both Cancellara and world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) already out of the Tour, the two British riders will expect to contest stage victory once again.
“I don’t think there are too many fast time triallists left in the race,” Froome said. “Obviously there’s Bradley, who should be the favourite for tomorrow. It would be great if one of us could be the winner.”
Froome finished 35 seconds down on Wiggins in Besançon, but has appeared the stronger in the mountains that have followed. He insisted, however, that he was not looking to prove that he has finished the race in better shape than Wiggins on Saturday.
“That’s not my goal,” he said. “If he’s in front or I’m in my front, I’m sure we’ll both be happy.”
Froome lies 2:05 down on Wiggins ahead of the final weekend, a gap that derived from a combination of the Besançon time trial and the time he lost in a crash during the opening week. Once again, Froome stressed that he was aware of the role he would play in the mountains before the race began.
“I’m happy with this Tour because when I came here I knew that was the job I would have to do,” he said. “Finishing second overall is an extra and that’s already something big for me.”
Already a stage winner at La Planche des Belles Filles, Froome said that he did not harbour any regrets about waiting with Wiggins at Peyragudes on Thursday instead chasing another victory in the Pyrenees. “I think I’ve already got a lot out of this Tour and as a team we’ve achieved a lot more, so I’m very happy with how it’s gone,” he said.