The 11th stage of the 2016 Tour, finishing in Montpellier, was blasted by crosswinds. With 12km to go, Froome followed an attack by Peter Sagan, and each was joined by a team-mate. The wind-ravaged peloton was caught on the hop and could only close to six seconds on the finish line. Sagan won the stage but Froome had again surprised his rivals to gain time
I think in any normal flat sprint stage I certainly wouldn’t have even thought about moving in the last 10km like that. But the whole day had been nervous with crosswinds and a lot of people had spent a lot of energy.
This is one of the things you can’t quite pick up from the television. A lot of people would have seen a peloton of 150 riders and thought, well that’s going to be a sprint. But knowing how it felt on the bike, that sense of a lot of people having been in the wind… There were a lot of people there but not a lot of people who had saved themselves all day and had the energy to actually make an impact on the race. So when we went into a roundabout and there was a bit of a pinch point, Sagan and Bodnar pushed on and I was right there. I thought, why not? I’ve been sheltered all day; let me go for it. If they catch us they catch us; if not, great.
At Sky we’ve got quite a strong Classics backbone through the team with guys like Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe. I learn a lot from them in terms of how to ride, when to push and when it’s important to back off a bit and save yourself.
Until that point we had ridden the perfect race. I hardly touched the wind before then. You’ve still got a lot of Classics guys there but in the Tour they are all doing different roles. What worked in my advantage was that there was that accumulated fatigue of already having a few days of racing in the legs. Typically a Classics rider is a guy who can go very deep on one day. I might be wrong but in my opinion the Classics riders probably have the edge taken off that ability to go so deep in a Grand Tour because of the accumulated fatigue.
As soon as I was in that position I was playing a game with the other guys to get them to commit. It was easy in the sense that Sagan probably wanted to go for the stage win. It turned out he was hoping to give the stage to Bodnar. I knew it was only a matter of seconds, so I knew the bonus seconds were more precious but a stage win in the Tour is not something you feel you can give away.
I never expected to beat Sagan in a head-to-head sprint – I knew the result before it happened – but at the same time I thought I had to try.
The sight of the green and yellow jerseys together in a break was spectacular
Fed up with fans running alongside on climbs, Froome joined them on Ventoux