Time waits for no man and it certainly does not wait for a rider and his team in the Tour de France and on stage 5 of the Tour, Team Sky were forced to quickly change focus after Chris Froome’s retirement.
On the cobbles that lined the road towards the Arenberg the British squad initiated ‘Plan B’ with Richie Porte becoming the team’s protected GC rider. Ably assisted by Geraint Thomas, the Australian avoided several crashes and remained in contention. The pair even attacked in the closing stages of the race from a group containing a number of overall contenders.
Although Vincenzo Nibali and stage winner Lars Boom were already free, Porte and Thomas gained the upper hand, putting time into Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo), Andrew Talansky (Garmin Sharp) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Porte now sits in the top ten and Thomas will be a key rider for the Australian for the remainder of the race.
“I saw Contador was struggling a bit on the cobbles so I said, Richie get on my wheel and we will just smash it and see what happens,” Thomas said at the finish of the stage.
“It was just mega-stressful. Everyone knew that the cobbles were going to be slippery. Everyone was stressing and those types of roads with the groove in the middle it might have been a shock to a lot of the peloton.”
“I actually enjoyed it then. Once it all broke up and you could take your own line it was awesome. It was good fun but losing Froomey is not good but Richie is in some good form.”
Despite Team Sky rescuing a result Thomas couldn’t hide his feelings over Froome’s departure from the race.
“It a mega loss losing Froome. But at the end of the day that’s bike racing, it’s life. You can’t have perfect rides all the time and that’s happened now and we have got to accept it and move on.”
“It is like Brad in 2011 when he crashed out with a broken collarbone. You have to take the positives from it and back then we saw it as our chance to go for stages.”
Porte was supposed to lead the team into the Giro d’Italia. However illness scuppered those plans. The Tasmanian has his chance to shine on the GC stage in the world’s biggest race and Thomas is backing him to come through. “Richie got a great chance now to ride for himself. We knew going into today we had Richie and it was a two-pronged attack.”
Froome has headed home and will undergo further tests as he looks to determine the extent of his injures after three crashes in two days.
“He must have been in bits but mentally it will be harder on him than physically,” Thomas said.
“He will not be too happy but that’s life. He is still young. It is not like this was his last chance to win the Tour.”