Rodez - Chris Froome is bracing himself for attacks on Saturday's 178.5km
14th stage of the Tour de France from Rodez to Mende.
The race leader admitted to being surprised at how hectic the end of
Friday's 13th stage became due to a short 570m climb to the finish.
The line in Mende comes after a 3km climb that at a 10.1 percent average
gradient is even steeper than Friday's, which saw some notable time gaps
develop, even though the overall contenders all came home together.
"I do expect the guys to try (to attack)," said Froome. "It
looked like a few guys were even trying on (Friday's) finish.
"Up Mende it's a lot tougher than (Friday's) finish. I expect someone
to try. On my side, the legs feel good, I'm looking forward to it and I hope
it's another day I can get through without any problems."
Froome finished sixth on Friday's stage, followed closely by Alberto Contador,
Vincenzo Nibali, Tejay Van Garderen and Nairo Quintana, with even the likes of
Tony Gallopin and Robert Gessink hanging on grimly.
What surprised Froome was how fast the approach to Friday's final climb got
as both the sprinters and punchers' teams jostled for position with those of
the overall favourites.
"In a stage like (Friday's) when it's not necessarily a bunch sprint or
GC (general classification) day, everyone wants to be up there," said the
30-year-old Team Sky leader.
"It just felt like chaos, it was almost a free-for-all into the bottom
of the final climb there.
"Speaking from a GC rider's point of view, we try to stay out of the
way of the sprinters and their lead-out guys, but with (potential) time gaps
(at the finish), you have to stay up there and you only have to see one GC guy
up there and they all want to be up there."
Saturday's stage is fairly similar to Friday's in that it favours a
breakaway with four low category climbs along the way.
However, the finish in Mende favours a puncher such as Joaquim Rodriguez,
already a winner of two stages on this Tour, and he has earmarked the 14th
stage as one where he could take another victory.
"However, it will be difficult to get into the right breakaway,"
admitted the 36-year-old Spaniard.
It would be no surprise, though, to see his Katusha team pushing the pace in
the final 50km should he not make it into the break.
Others who will have earmarked this stage are Ireland's Dan Martin, already
second on two stages, world champion Michal Kwiatkowski, stage eight winner
Alexis Vuillermoz or Alejandro Valverde, currently fourth overall but with a
kick that could see him gain a few seconds on Froome in the run-in to the