Chris Froome (Team Sky) was happy to complete the first of four decisive Alpine stages at the Tour de France to Pra-Loup, satisfied that he controlled his overall rivals on the testing descent of the Col d’Allos and neutralised several attacks by Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Froome was genuinely sorry to see Tejay van Garderen (BMC) abandon the Tour de France but fought back about any speculation to Team Sky releasing some of his data from the first stage in the Pyrenees. He confirmed he would release all his data to an independent body such as the UCI or WADA, on the condition that his rivals did the same.
Froome and Quintana went clear in the final kilometre to the line, with the Colombian even fighting to win the sprint for 18th place in the hope of scoring a psychological blow on his rival, but Froome marked him closely and finished in the same time. Quintana is now 3:10 behind Froome in the overall classification, with his teammate Alejandro Valverde third at 4:09 after the abandon of Tejay van Garderen (BMC). Quintana and Froome shook hands after the stage but their rivalry remains fierce out on the road.
Earlier Team Sky had controlled the peloton and had placed Richie Porte and Nicolas Roche in the break of the day to prepare for any tactical moves on the long slopes of the Col d’Allos. Other teams also tried similar plans, to perhaps attack Froome but he was never in danger, even showing some impressive descending skills on the Col d’Allos as he dived through the corners in Vincenzo Nibali’s slipstream.
“I was definitely pushed to my limits by all the attacks and can definitely expect more of it over next few days,” Froome admitted, before playing mind games with his rivals who are slowly running out of mountain stages to put him difficulty.
“My main rivals are Quintana and Valverde, and so I’ve got to respond when they make their moves. He (Quintana) is still feeling good but there’s perhaps an element that’s he running out of stages. I was surprised to see him and others guys going for it with 50km or 60km to go.
“I think it gives us a taste of the next few days. We’ve got three hard stages to go and I expect my rivals will push until finish and also battle it out for podium positions. I wouldn’t say there are signs of desperation but you can see that my rivals are going to take bigger risks; we’re seeing all or nothing approach at this point. Alberto Contador lost more time with his crash. I think that we can only expect him to attack earlier in next few stages.”
On the contrary, Froome claimed he was feeling good after enjoying the second rest day with his wife, Michelle, brother and other relatives.
“Tactically we were good but the attacks, even from far out puts us under a lot of pressure, so thanks to my teammates for controlling the race and keeping the yellow jersey on my shoulders,” he said.
“I’m feeling good and looking forward to the next days. I’m hoping to get through as best as I can but it’ is getting harder as we get towards Paris.”
The first Alpine mountain stage to Pra-Loup was more about the descent than the climb and cols of the stage. Nibali used his descending skills to test his rivals, but Froome was glued to his wheel and never seemed in difficulty.
“I’ve never felt descending was a weakness for me,” Froome said, pushing back any suggestions to the contrary.
“I felt confortable on the decent. I didn’t take any risks today. Riding with Nibali was more about holding gaps and not losing any positions. Others perhaps took risks but I was riding within myself and riding lines I felt comfortable with. It was good to know the descent after seeing it in the Dauphine and in recon rides.”
On the offensive about data
Froome seemed more relaxed after the second rest day and made an effort to speak in French alongside his wife, Michelle, on French television post stage. During his questions from the written press, he faced only two difficult questions: one about motorised wheels, which he dismissed by saying he had never heard about them, and another about the data Team Sky released during the rest day.
Froome insisted he had not had time to understand the reaction to the data release but accepted the questions about his performance may never go away. However, he made it clear he was ready to share all his data with an independent body if his rivals did the same. It was a bold promise.
“I’ve not really seen any reaction. I imagine is going to be never ending. Some data will never be enough,” Froome said.
“If people truly want to understand what I’m capable of as a rider, then they’ve got to have all the data, all power files, all the racing files, all the training files. For Team Sky that’s our competitive advantage, so that would mean giving away our training programmes that Tim Kerrison has spent years working on. It’d be crazy to give it away to other teams who haven’t invested in training.
“The team has made it clear they’d be happy to surrender the power data, everything, to the right independent body. If WADA or the UCI wanted to collected that info, I’m sure the team would be happy to give if to them, as long as all the teams do the same.
“But I’m also quite sure what we released wouldn’t be enough for some. A lot of people have made up their minds. No matter what info we release it’s not going to change their opinion.”