After an astonishing performance on stage 10 of the Tour de France in which Chris Froome put all of his rivals to the sword, few would be surprised if heads had dropped in rival team camps. There may be almost two weeks of racing remaining but such was Team Sky’s dominance in the first mountain test that the question has been raised over whether the Tour de France winner has already been found.
After his stage win on La Pierre-Saint-Martin, Froome now leads his closest rival Tejay van Garderen (BMC) by almost three minutes, while Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) are all several minutes in arrears.
Nibali lost all hope of retaining his Tour de France title, losing over four minutes on the final climb and dropping to almost seven minutes in GC. The leadership at Astana appears to have already shifted with Jakob Fuglsang tasked with flying the flag as the Italian team captain searches for any glimmer of form he can find.
For Giuseppe Martinelli, Astana’s directeur sportif, the battle and even the war look lost for Froome’s rivals.
“He’s shown from day one that he’s definitely the strongest,” Martinelli told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 11.
“He’s very well-prepared and he’s got a really strong team. I think it’s going to be hard for the others, and I think some guys will already have started thinking about second and third place.“
Over at the Movistar team bus the mood appeared a little lighter. Quintana has at least shown that he is currently the best of the rest and with a number of mountain stages to come the Colombian has a number of opportunities to strike. However, team manager Eusebio Unzué admitted to the press that realism would have to be suspended when it came to talk of Froome losing the Tour.
“I have to keep dreaming and I have to think that he is beatable. The reality is that he is riding very well. He showed he was strong in the first week and got through it in an incredible way, and then he confirmed it at the first opportunity yesterday with an impressive showing,” Quintana’s boss told reporters.
“The problem is that yesterday confirmed the impression of the first week, which is that Froome is going very well. He showed it on the Mur de Huy, on the pavé, in the team time trial and yesterday too. He’s opened up important gaps on many of his rivals, including us. Now we’re a minute worse off than him than we were before yesterday.”
With two more days in the Pyrenees before a shift towards the final week and the Alps Unzué was quick to point out that the first mountain stage, especially straight after a rest day, can lend itself to inconsistent performances. And although Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez and Vincenzo Nibali all lost significant time, Unzué believes that they will return to the front of the race.
“It was the first mountain stage and different riders deal with that differently. A lot of riders lost a lot of time but I think between today and tomorrow things will settle down and start to return to normal, and people like Alberto and Purito and Nibali will be back up there. I think the race will start to return to normal a bit.
“Yesterday was very humid and it was the first mountain stage. People hadn’t seen a mountain pass for ten days, and that change in rhythm is difficult.”