TOUR DE FRANCE
NEAR MISS FOR BRIT LEADER
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.
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.
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.”