Chris Froome believes that the reason his yellow jersey has yet to come under threat is due to the toughness of this year’s route but also to a lack of structure in the racing.
“One of the reasons that you haven’t seen massive attacks from other people is that everyone is nailed. The first two weeks were full gas,” said the British rider, who has led the Tour since the second Pyrenean stage on 9 July.
Counterintuitive though it might sound, Froome said that the general state of fatigue within the peloton came down to the fact that there had not been a major summit finish in the first two weeks of the race. That was partly due to the way the route has been planned, with no summit finish in the Pyrenees, but also to the fact that high winds had meant that the planned finish on Mont Ventoux last Thursday was cut short.
“If you look at the composition of the race and compare it to the past, there has only been one mountain-top finish and even that was shortened. That means there are more riders in contention and that makes the race harder to control,” said Froome. “I’m asked why guys didn’t attack two stages ago [at Culoz] but Fabio Aru, Alejandro Valverde and Romain Bardet did. Other people are tired.”
The Team Sky head, Sir Dave Brailsford, added that he felt there had been more climbing on what purported to be flat stages, which had taken people by surprise. “One of the interesting things is that there have been more metres of climbing in the flat part of the race. For example, on Monday [into Berne] there was 2,000 metres of climbing. I thought before the race that we would see a more aggressive first phase of the race given that we got to the mountains earlier than in the past. In 2015 getting to the mountains was a task in itself.”
Froome said he did not did feel that the young Briton Adam Yates, who lies third overall, would be a threat when the race hits the Alps later this week. “I wouldn’t look at him in the same light as Nairo Quintana. He’s quietly doing his thing. I wouldn’t expect him to attack in the big mountain stages.”
The race leader said before the Tour started that his goal was to be at his best in the final phase of the race, partly because of the toughness of the four Alpine stages which start on Wednesday, but also because he has a further goal of performing well at the Olympic Games in Rio. “I said my personal ambition was to be at my best in the third week, I started my season later than before and had a quieter run-in, which has helped, and I feel more ready for it than in previous editions.”
There are those who feel that Froome has no real rivals in this Tour because of the lack of attacks from the likes of Quintana, but the race leader has described that as “rubbish”. “I don’t agree,” he said. “Other teams have said they are going to attack in the Alps and I expect they will. A lot can happen in four days. All you need is one bad day in the mountains.”
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