Froome on a higher plain
OVER the earpiece tucked below his helmet, Chris Froome’s team sent word that his panting Tour de France rivals were struggling in the thinning air of the high Pyrenees, on the first skyward climb of this year’s race.
Clearly, they were having a bad day. So Froome decided to make it even worse.
Reprising the formula that carried him to victory in 2013, Froome barked an order to three teammates leading him up the punishing ascent: speed up. Shattered by the fierce uphill pace, trailing riders scattered behind them, their bluffs called and hopes dashed.
The first A- lister to crack was last year’s champion Vincenzo Nibali. Sweat beading off his chin, the Sicilian was cooked. The biggest high- profile loser of Stage 10 shed more than 4 minutes to Froome, all but ending his Tour defence.
Next, Alberto Contador dropped from the shrivelled group of the Tour’s hardiest climbers. The 2007 and 2009 champion zigzagged across the steep tarmac as Froome’s trusty lieutenant Richie Porte applied yet more speed. That doomed the Spaniard’s chances of adding the 2015 Tour to the Giro d’Italia title he won in May.
Two down, one major rival to go. Froome took down Nairo Quintana himself. Rising from his saddle with 6km still to climb, Froome accelerated away. The bill for Quintana, who rode in third behind Froome and Porte at the top, was very costly: 1 minute and 10 seconds lost to the Brit, who is now firmly in control of cycling’s showcase race.