Chris Froome (Team Sky) lined up as the de facto leader of the Tour de France in the cheese-making village of Livarot on Friday but, as had been widely anticipated when Tony Martin’s abandon was confirmed the night before, he did not take the start of stage 7 in the yellow jersey.
Historical precedent suggested as much. Alberto Contador inherited the overall lead when Rabobank sent Michael Rasmussen home from Pau in 2007 due to his missed tests in the run-up to the Tour, but the Spaniard did not wear yellow the next day.
However the UCI decided that any decision on wearing yellow was not Froome’s to make, with chief commissaire Guy Dobbelaere confirming to Team Sky that Martin remained the race leader until stage 7 had started. As a result the peloton set out for Fougères without a maillot jaune.
“Obviously with the whole yellow jersey situation, out of respect for Tony I wouldn’t want to be wearing it in any case,” Froome told reporters gathered outside the Team Sky bus ahead of the stage. “In my opinion that’s not the way to inherit the yellow jersey but the UCI commissaires have ruled against it in any case. I am still second on GC so I definitely won’t be starting in the yellow jersey day.”
Though Froome will not wear the jersey, he is now, to all intents and purposes, the leader of the Tour. He did not envisage that it would make any material difference to the way he and his Sky team approached the stage. Even without the jersey over the past two days, Team Sky, like all of the teams with a general classification contender, were visible towards the head of the bunch.
“I definitely don’t see it as a burden, especially on a day like today’s stage, which is a sprinters’ stage. The pressure is on the sprinters’ teams today to control the race and be at the front,” Froome said. “Of course my guys will be up there keeping me out of harm’s way hopefully and it’s just another day to get through.”
If there are no frissons among the favourites on the afternoon’s trek across Normandy into Brittany – and one can make no assumptions at this Tour – then Froome will have to linger longer than his overall rivals after the finish in Fougères. The Briton is 13 seconds ahead of Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and 15 up on Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and so will have to complete the yellow jersey podium protocol and media obligations of race leadership.
“That’s part of what comes with the yellow jersey, you know that every day you’ve got to schedule at least an hour to do all the media and extra protocols that come with the yellow jersey,” he said. “But I’ve got to get through today’s stage first.”
Clearing things up with Nibali after the crash
The final kilometre crash that meant the unfortunate Martin become the 15th man to abandon the Tour while in yellow also saw Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), van Garderen and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) hit the ground, while Froome only narrowly avoiding coming down.
As he picked himself off the tarmac in Le Havre, Nibali had blamed Froome for the incident, before reviewing the television images and acknowledging to reporters that the Sky man had not been at fault.
Froome made a point of visiting the Astana bus immediately after the finish and climbed aboard to clarify the matter with Nibali.
“There was a bit of confusion out on the road and I think initially Vincenzo was a bit hot under the collar and blamed me for the accident, so I just went on to the Astana bus to clear things up and set the record straight,” Froome said on Friday at the start in Livarot.
Froome clarified that he would not wear the yellow jersey in a tweet before the start of stage . He also wished Tony Martin all the best after surgery on his collarbone in Hamburg, Germany.