Chris Froome (Team Sky) has refuted the notion that he doesn’t have any rivals going into the final five days of this year’s Tour de France. Froome has held the yellow jersey since his victory in Bagneres de Luchon on stage 8 and has never looked seriously under threat, aside from the incident on Mont Ventoux where the jury eventually decided to nullify the time gaps.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) went into this year’s Tour de France as the most serious pretender to Froome’s throne as Tour de France champion. The diminutive Colombian has so far failed to unsettle the yellow jersey and his team manager Eusebio Unzue admitted after stage 15 that he was struggling to find any weakness in Froome or his support network. Second-placed Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) also told reporters that victory against such a strong team would be no easy task.
Many of Froome’s so-called domestiques could well be team leaders in their own right and the sight of Team Sky drilling it on the front up a climb, in a train akin to those used for sprinters, has become a common, if not expected, sight at races. Froome and his teammates have been dominant throughout the whole race. Sunday’s stage 15 was expected to be an opportunity to put the race leader in trouble, but the team’s pace prevented that from happening as most chose to sit in the wheels. Froome admitted himself following Sunday’s tough mountain stage that his team’s strength must be demoralising.
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When questioned if he had his third Tour de France all sealed up, Froome played it down. “I don’t agree, I think other teams have said they're going to attack this week in the Alps, and I expect they will do,” Froome said in his post-stage 16 press conference. “To say that the Tour is won and that I don’t have any rivals is rubbish. A lot can happen in four days in the mountains all need is one bad day and you could lose minutes.”
Froome will have time to contemplate the forthcoming stages as the peloton spends the rest day in Switzerland on Tuesday. The general classification will then be decided over four arduous days in the Alps, including two summit finishes and a mountain time trial.
“I am looking at it more as a four-day block. They are four very tricky days; each has its own challenges. Obviously, the time trial is pretty important. Each day is extremely challenging, so, in my opinion, it is definitely four-day block, as opposed to picking one day to go for as harder.”
The ‘four-day block’ begins on Wednesday with summit finish to Finhaut Emosson, a climb that Froome rode in the 2014 Criterium du Dauphine. “It’s an extremely tough stage in itself uphill finish,” said Froome. “We’ve only had one real uphill finish, and that was Ventoux, everyone knows that story. It will be really interesting see what happens on Wednesday.”