Uneasy Froome to ex­tend Tour lead be­fore TT

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LE PUY-EN-VELAY:

Chris Froome ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day he wouldn’t feel serene dur­ing Satur­day’s time-trial in Mar­seille in the penul­ti­mate Tour de France stage un­less he can take more time out of his ri­vals be­fore­hand.

The stage 20 race against the clock will be the last op­por­tu­nity for any over­all con­tender to make a bid for the yel­low jersey. And even though Froome is widely con­sid­ered a bet­ter time-tri­al­ist than his ri­vals, and he cur­rently leads the race by 18 sec­onds from Fabio Aru, the Bri­ton said he’d want more of a buf­fer to feel gen­uinely se­cure.

“I wouldn’t be sleep­ing easy (if that’s the ad­van­tage he had on Satur­day). We al­ways knew it was go­ing to be a close race and that’s ex­actly what it is,” said the 32-year-old reign­ing cham­pion.

“This was to be ex­pected and I knew that ev­ery stage, ev­ery sin­gle sec­ond is go­ing to count.”

Three rid­ers cur­rently sit within 30 sec­onds of Froome-Aru at 18, Ro­main Bardet at 23 and Rigob­erto Uran at 29 — with fourth placed Dan Martin only 1min 12sec fur­ther back.

But it is Uran who Froome fears most as the Colom­bian is usu­ally the best time-tri­al­ist of the Sky team leader’s clos­est com­peti­tors. “Each ri­val presents dif­fer­ent threats. If you look at Fabio Aru, he won the first moun­tain-top fin­ish on the Planche des Belles Filles.

“Per­haps he didn’t have such a good day a cou­ple of days ago, (but) he’s been strong in the third week (of a Grand Tour) be­fore. We’ll have to wait and see how he goes. “Ro­main Bardet has al­ways been strong in the last week of a Grand Tour and he also has the team (AG2R) to back him up, as we saw yes­ter­day-he put me un­der a lot of pres­sure yes­ter­day and we re­ally had to use the whole team just to con­trol that sit­u­a­tion.

“Rigob­erto Uran may be more of the dark horse who just slips un­der the radar a lit­tle bit. “He’s prob­a­bly the strong­est time-tri­al­ist of this group of GC rid­ers, so with Mar­seille in mind he’s a big threat.”

‘THE END OF YEL­LOW’

This Tour has been far from plain-sail­ing for Froome, who crashed in the first week and has had two me­chan­i­cal prob­lems at cru­cial times in moun­tain stages over the last week.

He ad­mit­ted that when he had such a dif­fi­culty on Sun­day, and had to stop to get a spare wheel off team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski while his ri­vals rode off up the road, he feared a fourth Tour vic­tory was slip­ping away.

“I think it dawned the sec­ond AG2R put the ham­mer down yes­ter­day and I was stand­ing still on the side of the road with Kwiato try­ing to change my back wheel, I knew then al­ready that this could be the end of my fight for the yel­low jersey.

“So I’m just in­cred­i­bly grate­ful ob­vi­ously the way my team-mates re­sponded un­der pres­sure there and that I had the legs to get back to that main group by the top of the climb. “Had I not got there, that could have been the end of the race for the over­all for me.” — AFP

LE PUY EN VELAY: Britain’s Christopher Froome leaves on his bi­cy­cle be­fore a train­ing ses­sion dur­ing the 104th edi­tion of the Tour de France cy­cling race yes­ter­day in Le Puy en Velay. — AFP

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