Froome emerges with lead intact from Pyrenees
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.