Safety first for Froome on the cob­bles


Hav­ing stayed safe on the treach­er­ous cob­ble­stones, Chris Froome cared lit­tle about con­ced­ing the race leader’s yel­low jersey to Tony Martin on Tues­day’s fourth stage of an ac­tion­packed Tour de France.

Af­ter crash­ing out of last year’s race early, fol­low­ing three crashes in two days, Froome had good rea­son to be ner­vous given that this stage fea­tured seven sec­tions of cob­bles.

But the night­mare sce­nario never ma­te­ri­al­ized, and the Bri­tish rider re­pelled the at­tacks of de­fend­ing Tour cham­pion Vin­cenzo Nibali as the valiant Ital­ian failed to claw back time on him.

“I wasn’t try­ing to show how strong I was on the cob­bles to­day; it was about stay­ing out of trou­ble,” said Froome, the 2013 Tour cham­pion. “Con­grat­u­la­tions to Tony for his late at­tack.”

Re­lieved af­ter cruis­ing through the fi­nal paved sec­tion, Froome did not chase as the Ger­man rider peeled away some 3 kilo­me­tres (2 miles) from the line to clinch a fifth Tour stage win and take the yel­low af­ter nar­rowly miss­ing it on stage 1.

“While Tony’s a great time tri­al­ist, he’s not go­ing to be there in the moun­tains,” Froome said. “I’m happy to see the jersey go to him rather than any of the big over­all ri­vals. This is the per­fect sit­u­a­tion for us.”

Fe­ro­cious side-winds in stage 3, a huge crash on stage 4 that took down 20 riders and put five out of the race, and Tues­day’s cob­bles have pre­sented riders with a dan­ger­ous cock­tail of haz­ards.

Froome’s come through them un­scathed and with a healthy lead over his ri­vals.

He leads two-time Tour cham­pion Al­berto Con­ta­dor by 36 sec­onds; Nibali by 1:38 and Colom­bian rider Nairo Quin­tana, the 2013 run­ner-up, by 1:56.

“We can all let off a big sigh of re­lief af­ter to­day,” Froome said. “It was a stress­ful stage and sketchy on the cob­bles, and I know we’ll all be sleep­ing a lot bet­ter tonight.”

The 30-year-old Martin fell into the arms of his team­mates af­ter the stage. Coun­try­man John De­genkolb fin­ished sec­ond and Slovak Peter Sa­gan was third.


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