Tour de France

Froome praises Dutch team-mate Poels

2016-07-18 07:05
Woeter Poels (Getty)

Culoz - Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome believes his Sky team-mate Woeter Poels would be a leader in any other outfit.

Poels was the one Sky team-mate to stick with Froome all the way to the end of Sunday's mountainous 15th stage and did the bulk of the chasing on the final climb of the day to ensure none of the Briton's rivals could attack.

He may be down in 34th place overall and nearly an hour behind his team leader, but Poels has been saving energy in non-mountain stages in order to be more effective when he's called upon.

Froome's rivals have variously described his Sky team at the Tour this year as an "armada" and "untouchable".

"That's one of the things I said coming into this race: I really am in such a privileged position to have such a strong team around me," said Froome, following Sunday's stage.

"It's possibly the strongest team Sky have put into the Tour de France.

"These guys would be leaders in other teams in own their own right."

And the one in particular he singled out is Poels, a talented Dutch climber who won the prestigious one-day Ardennes Classic race, Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April.

"He's not just any other rider -- he won Liege-Bastogne-Liege, one of the greatest classics in the world," added Froome.

"I'm really fortunate to be in this position."

This year's Tour has been marked by the lack of any race-changing attacks from Froome's rivals.

Until now, his team has controlled the race to such an extent that the few times someone has tried to put in a burst of acceleration on a climb, they've never got very far ahead and been brought back quickly.

"It must be quite demoralising for the others to be attacking and knowing this calibre of rider is going to be chasing after them and riding a tempo that's going to neutralise their attacks," added Froome.

Even so, the 31-year-old said he had expected more from his rivals.

"If I'm honest, yeah, I am quite surprised," he said.

"It really was a stage (on Sunday) where I expected more from Movistar in particular. They had two strong guys in the breakaway -- I thought they'd give more on the final climb."

Young Briton Adam Yates, one of the surprises of the Tour so far as he sits third at 2min 45sec from Froome, said the strength of Sky simply makes it impossible for anyone to do anything.

"With Sky riding such a hard tempo there's not much you can do," he said.

"As soon as there's an attack, they (the attackers) gain a few seconds and then start going backwards.

"Maybe you have to attack earlier or get in the breakaway because Sky are looking untouchable."

- 'More fire and fight' -

Movistar's Nairo Quintana was expected to be Froome's major rival this year but has been conspicuous by his lack of fight so far.

The Colombian is fourth overall at 2:59 and showed weakness on Thursday's climb up Mont Ventoux.

But his Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde insists the Charge of the Light Brigade is coming -- just not until the final week.

"Sky were very strong yet again and they really made it hard for us," the Spaniard said after Sunday's stage.

"It was a very difficult stage, and difficult for us to do anything with the pace.

"Nairo seemed pretty relaxed, he's very strong coming into this next week.

"We're going to try to do our best in the coming week. We're definitely going to try something.

"I think people are expecting more fire and fight from us. We will fight in the coming stages but not today (Sunday)."


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