Gap - Tour de France leader Chris Froome admits his rivals' tactical racing
is pushing him to his "limits".
With three Alpine stages left in this year's race before Sunday's procession
to Paris, Froome knows he won't be given a moment's rest by fellow overall
contenders desperate to turn the tide on a Tour that so far has been tightly
locked away in the Briton's pocket.
Thursday's 186.5km 18th stage from Gap to Saint Jean de Maurienne may not
look on paper like a course where time differences can be gained, but the last
week's racing has proved to Froome that the likes of Movistar pair Nairo
Quintana (second overall at 3min 10sec) and Alejandro Valverde (third at 4min
09sec), Tinkoff-Saxo's Alberto Contador (fifth at 6min 40sec) or even reigning
champion Vincenzo Nibali (seventh at 8min 04sec) will not let him relax.
Already on Wednesday's 17th stage from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup, Froome
was left to soldier on alone as his teammates were shed by the aggressive
riding of Movistar, Tinkoff and Astana.
Quintana had even started the attacks within the first 50km.
"I was definitely pushed to my limits (Wednesday) with all those
attacks and we can definitely expect more of that over the next three
days," said Froome, the 30-year-old Sky leader.
Movistar had sent two riders up the road in a breakaway to be used later to
help Quintana and Valverde on the final climb.
"It was a very impressive ride by them to have numbers in the finish
there," admitted Froome.
Tinkoff had planned a similar tactic but it unravelled when Contador crashed
on the tricky descent off the Col d'Allos.
Peter Sagan and Rafal Majka had gone up the road in a breakaway and
Australian Michael Rodgers was also ahead of the peloton ready to act as a
"We made a move and sent two guys out in the break and then I made a
move, a bit far out," explained Rodgers.
"The idea was to have a group of guys waiting for Alberto on the top of
the penultimate climb. It worked out perfectly, we had Peter, Alberto and then
myself in that select group with Rafal further ahead.
"Unfortunately, Alberto slipped in one of the corners. There were a lot
of bumps and his front wheel slipped and before we knew it he was on the
With Contador slipping out to 6min 40sec behind Froome, the Briton says his
Spanish rival will be doing nothing but attacking from now on in.
"Alberto Contador lost more time in that final descent with his crash
and you can only expect him to attack in the next few stages," said
Thursday's stage has seven categorised climbs, making it ideal for a
breakaway and both Movistar and Tinkoff are sure to have men in that.
But the main danger may come from the 21km long hours category Col du
Even though it peaks just under 40km from the finish, Froome can expect the
fireworks to ignite on the ascent.