Froome on a higher plain

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT -

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.

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