TOUR DE FRANCE

NEAR MISS FOR BRIT LEADER

Midweek Sport - - ON THE NOSE - By IAN BAKER

CHRIS FROOME hit out at Tour ri­val Al­berto Con­ta­dor last night – ac­cus­ing the Spa­niard of rid­ing dan­ger­ously af­ter the pair al­most came to grief late on in stage 16.

While Rui Costa was rac­ing away to a solo vic­tory up ahead, Con­ta­dor at­tacked both on the way up and the way down on the Col de Manse.

It was on the de­scent that he al­most over- cooked it on a sharp righthander, send­ing Froome on to the gravel along­side him.

“It was quite a danger­ous de­scent but I think that Al­berto Con­ta­dor was a lit­tle care­less to at­tack like that round the cor­ners,” Froome said.

Con­ta­dor, a two-time Tour win­ner, had warned on the rest day that a run­ners-up spot means noth­ing to him and he would go all-out to close the four minute and 25 sec­ond deficit he has to Froome this week.

And the ex­tent he is will­ing to gam­ble was clear yes­ter­day.

With the pelo­ton be­gin­ning to split on the way up the cat­e­gory two climb, Con­ta­dor and his team-mate Ro­man Kreuziger launched at­tacks in tan­dem to try to worry Froome.

They briefly suc­ceeded in drop­ping Richie Porte to leave Froome iso­lated be­fore the Tas­ma­nian re­cov­ered.

Grief

He would prove key in help­ing Froome re­gain con­tact with Bauke Mollema, sec­ond over­all 11 sec­onds ahead of Con­ta­dor, with his group not eas­ing off af­ter Con­ta­dor and Froome came to grief.

“There is never a quiet day on the Tour,” Froome added. “If they are not at­tack­ing on the climbs, they are at­tack­ing on the des­cents.”

Froome ges­tured to Con­ta­dor to carry more of the load when they were try­ing to catch Mollema, but Con­ta­dor kept his con­tri­bu­tion to an ironic thumbs-up to Nairo Quin­tana once they did re­gain con­tact, un­happy that they had not slowed af­ter a crash. MATT PRIOR in­sists he will be fit to play in Eng­land’s sec­ond Test – al­though he might not be 100 per cent for the Lord’s show­down.

The Three Lions wick­et­keeper handed Alas­tair Cook (be­low) a con­cern when he was or­dered to skip a golf day on Mon­day when a long-stand­ing Achilles prob­lem left him in agony af­ter the first Test at Trent Bridge.

But Prior in­sists the pain was only down to the hard work he put in over a gru­elling five days.

The 31-year-old has had an is­sue with his heel dat­ing back more than 12 months.

But he said: “I’m absolutely fine. My Achilles feels bet­ter than it has done for a long time.

“The rea­son I didn’t play golf is sim­ply be­cause, with back-to­back Ashes Tests and only one day off, I wanted to put my feet up and rest. I did not want to in­flame it.

“I didn’t want to risk flar­ing it up and do­ing some­thing stupid.

“Can you imag­ine what peo­ple would have said if I’d in­jured my­self play­ing golf on my one day off?

“I don’t think there are many play­ers who are not try­ing to man­age some­thing. The thing that hurts the Achilles is keep­ing wicket – that’s my job.

“We spent a lot of time in the field as well, so it’s an im­por­tant time to make sure we man­age it well.

“I try to make sure I’m do­ing the right things – mas­sage, on the bike and giv­ing my­self the best chance of feel­ing 100 per cent go­ing into Thurs­day as it’s back-to-back Tests.”

Prior played a key role dur­ing the con­tro­ver­sial first Test – as he was in charge of re­fer­ring ap­peals for the De­ci­sion Re­view Sys­tem.

And the gloves­man ad­mits he is turn­ing into a rob­ber!

He said: “Alas­tair hasn’t over­ruled me yet, but never say never. It is a re­spon­si­bil­ity, yes, but you want to make sure you get them right.

“The men­tal­ity of it is very im­por­tant. When it first came in play­ers thought this was great be­cause they thought they could bur­gle a wicket here and there.

“Let’s just re­view it be­cause it might be out, whereas that’s not ac­tu­ally the point.

“DRS is to make sure that if a mis­take has been made you have an op­por­tu­nity to right it.

“Once you look at it, you re­alise that with a lot of the lbw de­ci­sions the right de­ci­sion has been given. It has to be a bla­tantly ob­vi­ous one be­fore you ac­tu­ally re­view it.”

Prior has backed Steve Finn to come back strongly af­ter be­ing mauled by the Aussie bats­men at Trent Bridge.

Steam­ing

He said: “Finn is a fan­tas­tic tal­ent and a fan­tas­tic bowler for us. He has put in some win­ning per­for­mances for this Eng­land team.

“So ev­ery­one can have a bad day or a bad game – it hap­pens.

“But we ex­pect Finny to bounce back stronger than ever and to come steam­ing in bowl­ing with good speed and good pace – like he does and like we see in train­ing and nets and ev­ery­thing else.

“We know how good Steve is and we know he’ll be com­ing back fine.”

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