After winning the first uphill stage in this year’s Tour de France, Chris Froome reaffirmed Sky’s plan to back Bradley Wiggins in the race for the yellow jersey. Froome set the pace for Wiggins on La Planche des Belles Filles, shedding a number of Wiggins’s rivals before unleashing an unmatched sprint to take his first ever stage win in cycling's most iconic race. Wiggins, who finished third on the stage, just two seconds down, did enough to take the race lead from Fabian Cancellara.
The 199 kilometre Tour stage from Tomblaine also marked Froome’s first venture into the top ten of any stage he has ever ridden in the Tour, but served as a reminder of the form that helped secure second overall in last year’s Vuelta.
Sky had set their stall out from an early section of the stage with Bernhard Eisel and Christian Knees on the front of the peloton. Edvald Boasson Hagen took over before the final climb but Sky’s efforts increased dramatically when Michael Rogers and Riche Porte hit the front. One after another, GC contenders began to wilt until only 8 riders remained. Three of them were from Sky with Wiggins led by Froome and Porte. The former took over pace duties inside the final 2 kilometres and when last year’s winner Cadel Evans attacked inside the final 500 meters Froome latched on before accelerating towards the win.
“When it came to the final section it was really very steep. Cadel [Evans] came underneath me though and I expected that he would put in a bit of an attack. It never came and the finish was coming closer and I thought 'here’s Bradley in a perfect position and he's not going to lose time in general classification, so why not put in acceleration and see what the response was?' I’m really happy with that result,” Froome said.
Sky not only lead yellow but Froome, after taking maximum points on the final climb, now leads the KOM competition. The team also lead the teams’ classification with only green and white missing from their Tour wardrobe. However, both Froome and Wiggins acknowledged that the Tour was far from over and that greed would not get in the way of the pursuit of yellow.
“I'm speechless really at what we've achieved today in terms of British cycling,” Froome continued, before adding that the team’s highest priority was seeing Wiggins in yellow in Paris. When asked if his performance could alter Sky’s GC focus Froome batted back the question.
“This year we’ve a plan to look after Bradley and that’s our team plan. Maybe one day in the future in another race or another time but for now the plan is to look after Bradley.
“Our tactics today were to take the race on from the start. We knew it was going to come down to the final climb, which was going to be very decisive in the general classification. All day we had guys riding and so when we hit the climb we had Rogers and Porte who set a really good pace on the climb. They left me with a really easy job with 2kms to go. It wasn’t the plan for me to go for the stage but I saw Bradley was in a position that wasn’t going to affect his general classification and that opened up the door for me to put in a very small attack.”