Chris Froome (Team Sky) was probably hoping to have said goodbye to the responsibility of the yellow jersey until at least the Pyrenees, but he finds himself back in it on stage 7 following Tony Martin’s race-ending crash on Thursday. As he wasn’t awarded the jersey after Thursday's stage, rules dictated that he couldn’t wear it during today’s, but after finishing safely in the bunch he resumes his place at the top of the standings.
“It’s a huge privilege to be in the yellow jersey again but certainly not under these circumstances,” Froome said after collecting his second maillot jaune of the race. "It wasn’t ideal to get yellow in this way. I wish Tony a speedy recovery but unfortunately that’s bike racing and the Tour goes on."
Much has been said already this week about Froome’s calmer and more relaxed demeanour both on and off the bike. The 2013 Tour de France champion was almost caught up in the crash that ended Martin’s tenure in yellow, and in the race as a whole, but a nifty bit of bike handling saw him escape unscathed, bar a minor dispute with Vincenzo Nibali. Twelve months ago, the incident could well have seen him on the deck. Froome puts this more confident attitude down to a conscious effort to change his approach and the help of his classics teammates.
“I think especially because of what happened last year it was really a big goal for me this week, probably mentally more than physically, to really arrive here with the attitude that I’m here to ride at the front of the race and really just do everything I can to stay out of trouble and to get to this part without any major issues,” Froome explained. “I think having the guys around me, guys like Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, these guys are classics specialist and they’re always up there in the classics themselves, it’s given me a lot of confidence. They’ve been showing me the lines and it makes my job a lot easier.”
Shouldering the pressure of yellow
Team Sky have had three days without the burden and pressure that being the leader of the Tour de France brings, but with the yellow jersey back in on his shoulders the onus will be back on Team Sky to manage the bunch. When Froome won his title in 2013 he moved into yellow after stage 8, just one day later than he has this time. The team was arguably weaker then, with key riders missing such as Vasil Kiryienka, who missed the time cut on stage 9, while Geraint Thomas was nursing a broken pelvis.
For now, the team remain intact with new signings Leopold König, Wout Poels and Nicolas Roche boosting the support in the climbs, and Froome is confident. “To be honest, not a lot will change,” he said.
“Being in yellow gives the whole team a big boost, a lot of motivation and more reason to stay at the front and out of trouble. Not a lot will change because we really have that mentality already. As an example, in this last week we’ve really been proactive in doing more work than normal to try and stay safe.”
Froome goes into the second weekend of racing with an 11-second lead over Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who moved up to second after taking bonus seconds in the sprint. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) is Froome’s closest GC rival and sits third in the overall standings at 12 seconds. “Tejay is in good form. He’s only a few seconds back on me at the moment and he’s really ridden well this week,” said Froome when asked what he thought of his rivals’ performances this week.
“(Nairo) Quintana, he’s lost a lot of time already and that’s quite a big blow for him but I do expect him to be up there in the mountain, but I guess we’ll see to what extent in a few days’ time. Alberto Contador, he’s lost a little bit of time already, but I think the big question is how fresh is he after the Giro and how is he going to be once we’ve hit the mountains. Only time will tell. Vincenzo Nibali, we’ll have to see how he is in the climbs but he’s been fine this week.”