New yellow jersey Chris Froome (Team Sky) said winning the first mountain stage of the 2013 Tour de France is the result of months of hard work, a cleaner sport and will stand the test of time.
Froome and teammate Richie Porte dominated the final climb to the Ax-3-Domaines ski station on stage 8. Froome is now almost a minute clear of the field. Porte – instrumental in shredding the lead group on the lower slopes – is 51 seconds down, while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is third at 1min 25sec.
Such was the thrashing the black and blue team handed to other general classification rivals including Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) it raised a question about whether people could be confident that the result had been obtained cleanly. 100 percent, Froome said.
“It’s normal that people ask questions in cycling given the history of the sport,” he said in the winner’s conference.
“I know the sport has changed,” said the 28-year-old. “There’s absolutely no way I’d be able to get these results if the sport hadn’t changed. If you look it logically, we know that the sport’s in a better place that it has been for the last 20 or 30 years, so I think the results now are definitely a lot more credible.
“For me it is a bit of a personal mission to show that the sport has changed and I certainly know that the results I’m getting are not going to be stripped 10, 20 years down the line – rest assured it’s not going to happen.”
Froome said months of hard work – including training camps at altitude – and support from Team Sky staff and his fiancée had helped him arrive at the Tour in top condition.
“I think if people got more of a look into that they would see that that work equals these results and it’s not something that’s so wow, so unbelievable. It does actually add up if you look and see what actually goes into this.”
Team Sky’s strategy didn’t deviate from controlling the pace on the final two critical climbs on Saturday. On the penultimate Col de Pailhères, Sky looked unflappable, setting a steady tempo on the front of the main group. Even an attack from Nairo Quintana – who Sky identified as a danger man pre-Tour – failed to elicit a response. On the descent, Peter Kennaugh maintained Sky’s presence at the head of the peloton before Porte took over on Ax-3-Domaines and broke apart the race. Froome hit out alone with about 4km remaining and powered through the steep hairpins to gain every second possible.
“This is the Tour de France and every second counts. I definitely wasn’t trying to save myself there in any respect,” Froome said.
And on taking his first yellow jersey – which he assumes from former Barloworld teammate Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) he said: “To have the yellow jersey really is amazing. I’ve been in a few leader’s jerseys this year and nothing compares to the Tour de France.”