Froome emerges with lead in­tact from Pyre­nees

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

One moun­tain range com­pleted, one more to go.

Only the Alps loom as the last ma­jor ob­sta­cle be­tween Chris Froome and a sec­ond Tour de France vic­tory in Paris.

His ri­vals tried and failed to make the Bri­tish rider and his su­per-strong Sky team wilt on the tough­est — and last — day of climb­ing in the Pyre­nees on Thurs­day, on Stage 12 won by Joaquim Ro­driguez of Spain, who grit­ted his teeth in driv­ing rain on the fi­nal climb for his sec­ond stage win.

With those moun­tains that strad­dle France and Spain be­hind them, the op­por­tu­ni­ties for podium con­tenders to eat into Froome’s com­fort­able race lead are start­ing to run out. That might make them only more dan­ger­ous. They could take big­ger risks, like speed­ing hell for leather on down­hill roads, in hopes that Froome might crash, or gang up on him, as they sought to on Thurs­day’s steep fi­nal as­cent.

“There are only a cer­tain amount of op­por­tu­ni­ties be­fore we get to Paris,’’ Froome said. “We’ve just got to ex­pect ev­ery­thing to be thrown at us.’’

But to get to the 2013 cham­pion, Froome’s ri­vals must first get past his team­mates. And that is a prob­lem.

The big bud­get of his Sky team has bought the best help money can buy, riders so strong they could lead other teams if they weren’t work­ing for Froome.

They ride hard at the front, con­trol­ling the race. They al­low only those riders with no hope of vic­tory in Paris — like Ro­driguez — to es­cape up the road, be­cause they’re chas­ing stage vic­to­ries and other re­wards, while Sky fix­ates on the big prize: Keep­ing Froome in the yel­low jersey to the July 26 fin­ish on the Champs-El­y­sees.

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