The Tour de France is heading towards its final decisive stages in the Alps and has taken on a familiar guise in that Chris Froome is in the maillot jaune with a commanding lead and an even more commanding team around him.
With Team Sky questioning the approach of other teams, Movistar cowering at the collective strength of their major rival and other riders seemingly focused on holding onto their podium places, Cyclingnews spoke to Tinkoff directeur sportif Sean Yates to get a unbiased perspective.
Cyclingnews: What’s your take on the GC picture?
Sean Yates: If you go on past scenarios, particularly with Froome and Bradley, Team Sky are definitely in the driving seat. Of course Movistar will say the Tour is not over – and they’re right – but when you look at how Froome and his team are going, it’s an uphill battle to pull back that time.
CN: What do you make of Movistar’s approach?
Yates: Ultimately if you look at the climbing numbers and the way Sky are performing, everything is dictated by what you are able to do. You can talk tactics all day long but if you haven’t got the legs you haven’t got the legs. They [Sky] are only bothered about Quintana, but he hasn’t got the legs at the moment and he’s got a fair amount of time to make up.
Sky over the last few years have controlled matters very well and they’ve got a solid team, and if you stay as a team you know you can control pretty much any scenario. Of course it looks good when you attack but if you have a minute and a half to make up… Obviously we saw in the Giro d'Italia that it is possible, but it was possible because Chaves cracked. In theory anyone can crack, but it’s unlikely in my opinion that Froome will crack. I think he’s got it sewn up.
CN: What would be your approach if your rider Alberto Contador was still in the race and facing a similar deficit?
Yates: We’d hope that the other guys in a similar situation, like Quintana and Aru, would be allies. But to do it solo against a solid team is virtually impossible.
CN: Are most of the guys in the top 10 happy with what they’ve got?
Yates: Adam Yates is obviously a young guy – he’s going to follow for as long as he can. With Mollema it’s similar because he’s never been in this situation before.
If you try something reckless on stage 17 or 18 then you might pay on stage 20. In my opinion they’d be better waiting until stage 20 and the climb of the [Col de] Joux Plane. Ok, then it’s downhill to the finish and the last stage, but if you try anything before that it’s compromising your position. One day a big effort, and the next day you pay. If you go for it on stage 19 to Mont Blanc, on stage 20 you potentially lose everything on the Joux Plane – if you can’t keep the pace set by Woet Poels, for example. You can lose a minute and a half and slip from second to fifth.
CN: Would the final week be more exciting with Alberto in the race?
Yates: Alberto normally attacks no matter what, so yeah. It cannot be any less exciting – put it that way. Not to say it’s necessarily boring – it is what it is. It’s not a popularity contest; people are moaning on social media about the Sky bots, but they’re out there to win the race and they do what’s necessary to win the race. You can’t have your cake and eat it. That’s why the Tour is often less exciting than the Vuelta where there are weaker teams and more leaders who want to light it up. There’s a lot less at stake.
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