An attack from Nairo Quintana on La Toussuire that cut Chris Froome’s Tour de France yellow jersey margin to 2:38 over the Movistar rider became secondary to the Sky rider post-stage 19, with an earlier attack on the hors catégorie Col de la Croix de Fer from Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) enraging the maillot jaune.
“I think it’s pretty self-explanatory really,” Froome said of his thoughts on the Nibali attack before going on to explain the incident. “Going up the Col du Glandon the very last part, near the Croix de Fer, I had a mechanical problem with a piece of asphalt or small stone that got stuck between my brake calliper and my rear wheel, and obviously the rear wheel just jammed up. I had to stop to get it out before I could continue.”
Nibali, the defending Tour champion, went on to win the stage and move up to fourth overall, with Froome crossing the line 1:14 later in third place and Quintana second. Having started the day 8:04 in arrears to Froome, Nibali’s attack was never likely to land him the race lead, but the lack of respect shown to the yellow jersey appeared to be the larger issue at play for Froome.
An irate Froome explained that he told Nibali “exactly what I thought of him” in a heated exchange in the podium area. “I don’t think it was very sportsmanlike to attack at the one moment I had a mechanical moment, but that’s his decision and that’s how he chose to make the race,” he added.
As the anger subsided from the Nibali incident and questions centred on the penultimate stage to Alpe d’Huez, a certain level of calmness came over Froome with the realisation that he is just one 13.8 kilometre climb from a second Tour victory.