Video: Sean Kelly assesses Sky's performance at Ax 3 Domaines

Sky dispelled any uncertainly over the strength within their Tour de France line up with a relentlessly commanding performance on the first mountain stage of the race to Ax 3 Domaines.

The British team finished the day with the stage win and the yellow jersey courtesy of Chris Froome and Richie Porte finishing first and second, as the remaining Tour team leaders fought to keep their slim hopes of winning alive.

Alberto Contador lost 1:45, Joaquim Rodriguez 2:06, Andy Schleck 3:34, Cadel Evans 4:13 and Tejay van Garderen a shocking 12:15. Only Alejandro Valverde, who finished third at 1:08 managed to salvage something on a day when Sky took control and then some.

"It's an unbelievable stage. Froome, he's just so strong and the problem is maybe it's taken a lot of interest out of the Tour now because Froome has proved that he's so strong," said former professional Sean Kelly.

"If you have one of the big favourites, maybe two who lose more time than expected but when you see van Garderen, Evans losing huge time, Contador losing massive time, it's really looking like the race could be over already."

The race is far from over, however, and several difficult days lie between a Froome win and Paris. Stage 9 offers the opposition a chance to fight back and the lack of a summit finish may in fact help them break Sky's pattern of systematic, metronomic suffocation whenever a stage finishes on a climb.

"You can always crack but if you look at the strength in depth of Team Sky and the way they rode the race, and how Richie Porte rode, how Froome took it up…when you have that depth in the team unless Froome has a disastrous day but that is looking highly unlikely," Kelly said.

"We could see riders going on the attack from a long way out, that's the only possibility because if you wait for the final mountain you can do nothing against Team Sky. They're so powerful as a team."

Unlikely as it may prove perhaps Sky have shown their confident hand too soon.

"That's something we'll have to see. That is always the risk and you never know. It's a long way to Paris and depending on what way the other teams ride because they're so far down they're going to have to try and do something much further out in the stages."

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.