Sky captain pads lead in Tour de France
Chris Froome (Team Sky) delivered an unstoppable performance at the Tour de France on Sunday with a climbing display that helped him extend his overall lead in the race to over four minutes on stage 15 to Mont Ventoux.
Froome came into the stage with a 2:45 buffer over his nearest rival. However he and his Sky team had looked vulnerable in the lead up to the Alps after Alberto Contador and Saxo Bank had taken the fight to Sky on the road to Saint-Amand-Montrond.
Any talk of Froome or Sky’s demise was rapidly quashed with Froome able to reassert and ram home his domination on the Mont Ventoux. It was a performance just as crushing as the one Eddy Merckx delivered on the climb in 1970 with Sky's black and blue train leaving its rivals scattered over the mountain.
"I really didn't see myself winning this stage today. I thought I’d have to surrender the stage to Quintana in the final. My main objective was to get more of a buffer on the GC. But I didn't see myself winning that stage today – I really cant believe it," Froome said at the finish.
Sky set the early tempo at the base of the climb, taking over from Movistar. As the early break crumbled up ahead the British team used their ritual pattern of uphill pace setting to good effect, stringing out their rivals who were already looking to limit their losses.
Quintana broke clear, while Sky’s Peter Kennaugh moved to the front of a heavily reduced field. Richie Porte, recovered from the battering he took in the second stage of the Pyrenees, soon took over and at one point only Alberto Contador and Froome could follow the pace.
"Quintana had obviously attacked quite far out and he had a decent advantage. Climbing as well as he does we didn't want to give him too much time. Kennaugh tried to keep the time down, and when he pulled over Richie [Porte] upped the pace and closed the gap down. I think Alberto was the only guy left with us," Froome said.
"As Richie started coming to the end of his turn I thought now was the time. I didn't want to sit up and start playing games, now is the time to keep pushing on and close down Quintana and hopefully get rid of Alberto."
When Froome attacked, spinning what looked like an uncomfortably small gear, Contador was distanced and Froome was able to catch Quintana.
The pair worked together before Froome took flight once more, this time getting out of the saddle to attack and seal the stage to become only the second rider in history to win on Ventoux while in yellow.
"I thought I’d have to surrender the stage to Quintana, but with around two kilometres to go he started faltering a bit and I had enough energy. It really was a full gas effort until up until the finish."
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Tour de France
Tour de France 2013