For new fans of pro cycling, some of the sport's quirks can be hard to fathom. Take winning the Tour de France's yellow jersey, for example. Team Sky hope Chris Froome will wear it into Paris, but were happy their British team leader missed out on taking it in Tuesday's team time trial. "Can you explain the thinking behind that?" Froome was asked in the melee around the Team Sky bus. When he did so, his answer underlined why a narrow defeat left him and his team happy rather than despondent.
"I don't think there's any disappointment at not taking yellow. If we had taken yellow it would have been by just a few seconds and it would have meant we would have needed to be on the front for the next few days, possibly expending quite a lot of energy to defend a lead of only a few seconds. So I think in a way it's a good thing we didn't end up in the yellow jersey," said Froome.
He also pointed out that the team time trial was just one small, but significant, step towards the longer-term goal of the overall title. "If we had been thinking about winning today we would definitely have included more flat engines, but knowing the guys we have, I think we're very satisfied," said Froome
Asked about his own performance, he said, "I felt very good. I was able to do slightly longer pulls on the front. I feel like I'm coming into some good form now ahead of the mountains. Not taking the yellow jersey enables us to sit back in the peloton and wait for the mountains, where I think we will really excel."
Froome, whose form was described by Sky manager Dave Brailsford as "fruity", also said he was pleased to gain time on his main rivals for the yellow jersey, even if those gains only amounted to a few seconds. "We have taken note of where Saxo Bank finished, as they have a very strong team, too. We'll take finishing six seconds up on them. We're really happy with the way the day turned out all round," he said.
The Sky leader then highlighted the performance of teammate Geraint Thomas, whose fractured pelvis has been the team's biggest setback since the Tour got under way. In normal circumstances, Thomas would have been Sky's lead-off man in the team time trial, getting them up to cruising speed during the opening kilometre. Due to his injury, all he was expected to do was sit at the back of the Sky line and finish as best he could.
"I think the big story we can talk about today is Geraint Thomas getting through in such a great way," said Froome. "Not only did he hold on to the rest of the team, but he came through and did some massive turns. He's been in a great deal of pain the last few days and seeing him do that lifted all of us, as does knowing that he will be there going forwards into the Tour. I don't think there's a question of whether he can hang on or not given what he did today. He's going to be around for the next few days for sure."
When he rolled to a halt just beyond the finish, Thomas was upbeat too. "I just wanted to get stuck in for the boys. I was dreading it to be honest," he confessed. "I was scared of the start because the last two days I haven't been able to get out of the saddle. I haven't been able to put out any big watts - 400 or 450 watts. So today I was hoping to feel a bit better.
"Fortunately, thanks to adrenaline and being really up for it, I managed to stay with the boys. Once we were up to speed and the line had formed, it was OK. I gave them a couple of turns and then at the end I gave everything I had."
Although he admitted his mother still wants to "wrap me in cotton-wool", Thomas said he is more confident about his chances of surviving for some days yet. "I'm really chuffed that I'm able to put out a bit more power now. The pain is definitely easing. It's on the bit of bone around the back [of my pelvis], so there's no real pressure when I'm sitting.
"The next few days should help. As long as there's no wind, I should be able to take it relatively easy. Hopefully, by the weekend it should be 10 times better. I can definitely feel myself getting better, so I'm not going to stop just yet."
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