Tour de France: Team Sky could let yellow go as they save their powder for final week

British team happy to play off other teams and wait for the mountains

They have done it only once in their four Tour de France victories but Team Sky have stated that they would be willing to relinquish the yellow jersey in order to save their strength as a team for the final week of racing.

The British WorldTour team has led the race since the opening time trial in Düsseldorf last Saturday, when Geraint Thomas claimed the jersey in the time trial. The maillot jaune was on the shoulders of Chris Froome after the first mountain test on stage 5, but no team has worn yellow from start to finish at the Tour de France since 1970, when Faema dominated with Italo Zilioli and Eddy Merckx.

"To be honest it's not the plan to keep the jersey every day until we get to Paris but we've got the team do it, 100 per cent. Honestly, I believe it's a team that can be even stronger than it is now in the third," the team's director, Nicolas Portal, told Cyclingnews after stage 6.

The day before Team Sky were willing to follow through on their word. A promising break, stacked with talent, had gone clear consisting of Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale), Mickael Delage (FDJ), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal). None of the riders were a threat on GC and instead of controlling the bunch in the suffocating heat, Team Sky were willing to lose in order to win, as Dave Brailsford might have said.

"We planned for the worst in that we might have to control the race all day," Portal said, "but obviously BMC came to the front almost straight. From there it was about staying in a good position and being there while they did all the work. It was a hard break, and they did the work, and that was perfect for us."

BMC's tactics were puzzling to say the least. One director from a impartial team said that Team Sky were laughing at their rivals in red and black as they kept the break at around two minutes – effectively burning themselves out before the race had even reached the final climb.

"They rode for the ten second time bonus and the stage victory but that was a good break for us. You're never happy to lose the jersey and that was a day that was better to focus on Chris, rather than to kill the break and then go for the stage win."

In the end BMC and their leader, Richie Porte, missed out on the time bonuses but their efforts helped keep Team Sky in the lead.

The paradox of the course design

The paradox of all this is that although Team Sky have been in yellow for a week, they have done relatively little work on the front. ASO's desire might have been to limit Froome's chances to win but their parcour design has also allowed the three-time winner to find plenty of natural allies when it comes to controlling the field.

With the first ten days dominated by flat stages, and with a crop of super-keen sprinters in the bunch, Team Sky have been able to sit back for the majority of the opening week.

"We can't chase everything and the sprinters can see that we're not going try and keep the jersey if the break is okay. They don't want to mess around and we need to keep in mind that it's still a long way to Paris," Portal said.

"It's not our choice if the sprinters' teams ride. We need to be prepared to work if we have to because we still have yellow."

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