Bike prob­lem nearly de­rails Chris Froome in Stage 15 of the Tour de France

Rome News-Tribune - - SPORTS - By John Leicester and Sa­muel Petrequin As­so­ci­ated Press Sports Writers

LE PUY-EN-VE­LAY, France — If Chris Froome rides into Paris next Sunday with the Tour de France’s famed yel­low jersey still on his shoul­ders, it will be im­pos­si­ble to ar­gue that he didn’t earn the win.

In an­other day of drama Sunday in a 104th Tour full of twists, Froome broke a back-wheel spoke at the worst pos­si­ble time on Stage 15 — just as his top ri­vals were pick­ing up speed in front of him go­ing into yet an­other pun­ish­ing climb.

By the time Froome had stopped, taken a wheel off his team­mate Michal Kwiatkowski and got go­ing again, they were long gone, al­ready about one minute down the road.

Froome had two choices: pour all his en­ergy into catch­ing them or lose his over­all race lead and its yel­low jersey that has al­ready changed hands three times since the Tour started in Ger­many on July 1.

“Panic sta­tions,” he said. “I re­ally thought that that could be the yel­low jersey chang­ing shoul­ders again.”

Like a hound chas­ing prey, Froome hared off af­ter Ro­main Bardet, Fabio Aru and Rigob­erto Uran — the three rid­ers all within 30 sec­onds of Froome in the over­all stand­ings of the Tour that, af­ter a ho-hum be­gin­ning, has be­come thrillingly close.

Ear­lier at the Tour, Froome’s ri­vals had waited for the race leader to catch them back up when he suf­fered an­other me­chan­i­cal prob­lem, that one with his gears.

There was no such po­lite­ness this time.

Cheered on by par­ti­san crowds on the 5-mile slog up the steep Col de Peyra Tail­lade — scaled for the very first time by the Tour — Bardet’s French team AG2R put the ham­mer down.

Fur­ther back, Froome re­al­ized that if he didn’t catch them by the top, he might never do so. The race was on. Helped first by team­mates Mikel Nieve and then by Mikel Landa, and booed by some spec­ta­tors as he la­bored past them, Froome worked fu­ri­ously on the climb to reel in Bardet’s group.

“They all emp­tied them­selves to get me back into the race,” Froome said of his team­mates. “I had to get back by the top of the climb. Oth­er­wise it was game over for me.”

“It was a stress­ful mo­ment,” Froome said. “I thought I might not get back to the front.”

Christophe Ena / The As­so­ci­ated Press

The pack with Italy’s Fabio Aru, wear­ing the Ital­ian tri­color jersey (green, white and red), passes dur­ing the 15th stage of the Tour de France over 117.8 miles with start in Lais­sac-Sev­erac l’Eglise and fin­ish in Le Puy-en-Ve­lay, France, on Sunday.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.