Chris Froome (Team Sky) donned the Tour de France race leader's yellow jersey for the 50th time at the end of a straightforward stage to Bergerac. The Briton described the straightforward sprinter's stage as a "bit of a double rest day" after making it to the finish without any difficulty.
34th on the stage behind winner Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors), Froome is now equal fourth, alongside Jacques Anquetil, in the ranking for number of days spent in yellow by any riders. "It'd be sweeter for certain if I can keep this jersey all the way to Paris, but it's a huge, huge honour all the same," Froome said afterwards.
Froome expressed his satisfaction with the UCI's decision to extend the maximum time gap between splits in the peloton in the closing kilometres of flat stages from one to three seconds, arguing it made the battle for the line a much less stressful affair.
"We've always got to be in front, because days like this you can lose the Tour even if you can't win it. But we can ease back a little, be a little calmer."
Wednesday's stage to Pau is equally flat, and there will almost certainly be crosswinds. Froome argued that "any mention of that makes people nervous, everybody wants to be at the front and we'll have to be ready to go to war again."
Questions quickly moved towards Froome's rivals in the Tour, and the Briton agreed that Astana's double handed approach to the race, with Fabio Aru and Jakob Fuglsang in the GC running, made for a greater challenge.
"I've also got Mikel Landa in the top 10 on GC," he pointed out, "so that's a card to play on my part. But they've got a card to play, too, and we saw on the Mont du Chat that Fuglsang and Aru are willing to work together. That was intelligent riding by them because [lone attacker Romain] Bardet [AG2R La Mondiale] is a threat to all of the opposition."
Froome was also asked about how he had raced on the Mont du Chat, looking straight down at his power meter as soon he got a replacement bike following his mechanical. "I was trying to pair the settings to the new bike," he said, "and after about ten seconds I realised it wouldn't happen, so I rode the Mont du Chat on no power."
As for Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac), who won the stage into Chambery but who was, until that point, not viewed as a major contender before the Tour, Froome recognised that after the Jura he would be keeping a very close eye on the Colombian, currently fourth overall.
"He has done a great race up to now and I'd certainly consider him a threat. If he moves, I'll be straight after him, I'm not giving him any space," Froome said.
"Equally, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) has had a tough race and even though he's lost more than five minutes and so isn't somebody I'd have to react to immediately, he's never shy to attack from far out.
"On Friday's short stage through the Pyrenees I wouldn't be surprised to see Contador attack on the first climb. But we'd be ready for that and we're not prepared to let anybody come back on GC."
The events of Formigal, he admitted, when he lost the 2016 Vuelta following an early move by Contador and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), have made him much more watchful of such short, punchy stages.
Froome also revisited the controversy surrounding Aru's attack on the Mont du Chat, although he was at pains to emphasise that there was no lingering disagreement between himself and the Italian.
Discussing the question of unwritten race etiquette in general, he said that "I wouldn't attack a race leader when he's having a problem, but each to his own. That's been a tradition for as long as I can remember. But each to his own."
As for Aru, Froome praised the Italian's move on the Planche de Belles Filles as being "very clever tactically," and singled out Aru's most formidable weapon as his strategic sense.
"He attacked while it was still steep but before the climb smoothed out a bit, which was when the main GC guys eased up and started looking at each other," Froome said.
"Attacking at that point was very clever. He reads the race very well, and I'll have to be attentive going forward."
Meanwhile, the Sky leader has a 50th day in the maillot jaune to celebrate.
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