There are two easy days at the Tour de France: the first rest day and the second rest day, while everything before, between and after can be described through different levels of suffering. Stage 10 to Revel may have looked relatively easy on paper, with just one major ascent coming at the start before a long descent back into France from Andorra, but in reality it was anything but easy for Team Sky and race leader Chris Froome.
In his daily post-stage mix zone duties, Froome was asked once about the 'easy day' in the saddle with the Alps looming large on the horizon.
"I had a really rest day yesterday," he said, pointing to fact that Team Sky were forced to control the race today once it left Andorra with almost half the peloton looking to escape and make it into the break of the day.
"It was a pretty strange start. Obviously for us it was a lot of work to do early on to make sure we were happy with the break that went."
Froome held up two examples of why controlling the peloton was important, and interestingly they both came from Sky's main rivals in the race, Movistar.
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"One stage we had Valverde attacking so we had to neutralise that. Once we were at the top it was descending in that midst and not being able to see what was going on. I imagine it was a little like how it must have felt in the Giro a couple of years ago, when Quintana slipped off the front – so I was trying to keep an eye on him."
Froome and all his GC rivals safely came through the stage, with Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange) winning from the break and Sky sending Mikel Landa up the road to monitor the situation. Wednesday's stage to Montpellier should end in another bunch kick, but Thursday's brute to Mont Ventoux could see the race explode into life, leaving a phase of tense calculation and bluff behind.
"It was good to get through the day. I'm looking forward to Ventoux on Thursday and the time trial on Friday; those are the next big targets, the next big days for us.
"Today we didn't know how it would pan out – it could have been full-on all day. It's difficult to plan for these kind of days, especially after a rest day – you never know how the legs will respond. It was nice to recover yesterday, catch up on sleep, and get something back for these next few days."
"If you look at the GC battle the top 10 are separated by around a minute pretty much. The days at Ventoux and the time trial, the gaps will open up and be significant."
Not every day in the Tour de France is significant for the GC riders, but easy days there are none.
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