Tour de France: Sky happy to be in yellow and at the front on the pavé

Whenever a general classification contender moves into the yellow jersey in the first few days of the Tour de France, there will be question marks over whether or not he has done so too early.

With the honour of wearing the maillot jaune comes the burden of defending it for a potentially extended period, with the added responsibility that places on the shoulders of your teammates. 

However, Sky couldn’t be happier that Chris Froome took the jersey after stage 3 as it plays perfectly into their hands in terms of plans for the cobbles on Tuesday’s stage 4.

“It means we're car number one. From that point of view it's perfect [to have the yellow jersey],” team principal Dave Brailsford told, referring to the fact that his support vehicle will be closer to hand than those of other teams.

“If you ride on the front because you've got the jersey it kind of helps you, you're not pushing someone out of the way you're there because you're leading the race,” he added.

The rain-soaked cobbles blew the race to pieces last year, with riders coming across the line in small groups, weary, drenched, and caked in mud. Vincenzo Nibali asserted himself in what was a key day in the GC battle, and Tuesday’s stage is all the more eagerly anticipated as a result.

“It is going to be a nervous stage, you try to stay in the race and use a bit of energy, but we're willing to spend a gamble of it to get through this”, Brailsford said.

“I don't think you should read too much from this stage, it's early, it's nice to be in front but it's a bit like scoring a goal in football. Then you're really vulnerable for five minutes afterwards. I'd say we are pretty vulnerable now. It will be my message to the team.”

As for Froome himself, much was made of last year's cobble stage, where he abandoned the race before making it to the pavé. He faced some derision for that and despite not having the chance to show what he can do on the cobbles, there have been fears over how he may cope on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Froome is fond of the cobbles and is raring to get stuck in, according to Sky directeur sportif Nicolas Portal.

“He likes them. When we did our recon last month, he charged into all the sectors,” Portal told L'Equipe. “At times I was a bit worried about that. When we studied the cobbles a few months ago he was like an animal within. He is ready. He really wants to do well in this stage because he doesn’t have any apprehension.”

Portal confirmed that the Sky riders will be riding the Pinarello that was developed for Paris-Roubaix earlier this year, with its rear suspension. He said that Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe will be the key men for Froome in the stage but that it remains to be seen exactly how they are used, and reiterated Brailsford’s belief that the front is the place to be. 

“It’s not necessarily about the legs. It’s about positioning, the team spirit. At Sky, we have made a choice: we ride at the front.”

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