Chris Froome laughed when asked by Cyclingnews if the downhill attack and aerodynamic pedalling technique he employed in winning stage 8 at the Tour de France on Saturday should be classified one of Team Sky's now famous marginal gains. He also dodged questions about if it was a planned attack and strategy, preferring to describe it as a spur of the moment attack as he enjoyed racing his bike.
"I'm not sure I'd call that a marginal gain. Call it what you want. I felt like a kid again out there, riding my bike again as fast as I could," Froome said happily in the post race press conference.
He did reveal that the idea had come from training with Michel Kwiatkowski, who often pedals in a tucked position over his top tube. He took some risk on the wide sweeping corners but used his extra speed and nerve to carve out a lead on the chasers. He finished just 13 seconds ahead of Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and 12 other chasers in a select group. It was enough to give him the yellow jersey, and he now leads Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) by 16 seconds.
"I've done quite a lot of training camps with Kwiatkowski and when you spend time together, it's something you end up doing. You race each other on descents and I guess that it paid off today a little," he explained.
"It was such a hard stage, with barely time for a natural break. It really was one of the hardest stages I've done in along time. My teammates just buried themselves for me today, from start to finish, so I thought I needed to make the most of this."
"I gave it a go on the climb and that didn't really work. I could see the guys on my wheel pretty quickly, so I told myself to give it one more go over the top of the climb to see if I could pull away over the top of the descent. I'm really glad I took that risk. It was a spur of the moment reaction and thought that everyone would be on the limit and so I gave it a little squeeze to see what happened. I didn't take a massive gap but I'm in yellow this evening and it's a big surprise, but it's an amazing feeling to be back in yellow again."
Ready for responsibility and scrutiny in yellow
Last year Froome dominated on the first mountain finish in the Pyrenees, taking a chuck of time from all his rivals. That sparked often wild and unfounded accusations, with Team Sky then going on the offensive to defend their image and reputation by suggesting their performance data had been hacked. It created a tense atmosphere, with Froome also claiming a spectator had thrown urine at him.
Looking ahead we do have some really hard mountaintop finishes to come and those are really going to be more selective that what we saw today.
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- Froome happy to be in yellow after daring downhill attack
However, Froome has won the Tour de France twice now and is older and wiser. He admitted he is ready for the responsibilities, pressure and obligations that come with the yellow jersey. He has made extra efforts to engage with French fans and the Tour de France media this year. He joked that people will quickly analyse his performance during the stage to Bagnères-des-Luchon.
"I've no doubt that people out there have already calculated my VAM going down the last decent and saying it's off the charts," he said with a mix of sarcasm and fun.
"I mean, I can't be happier to be back in yellow again. It's an amazing feeling and to do it in the way I did today, I've never won a stage like that before and it really did feel like I was taking the stage on and enjoying it."