Tour de France

Sky keep powder dry ahead of alpine fireworks

2018-07-18 13:32
Chris Froome (AP)

Le Grand-Bornand - Outgunned on the opening Alpine salvo of the Tour de France, the Sky team of defending champion Chris Froome have promised fireworks over the coming two days of racing.

"It's short, intense and uphill," Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford said when asked about Wednesday's short and explosive 11th stage over 108 km from Albertville to the race's first summit finish at La Rosiere.

"But Alpe d'Huez (on Thursday) is where it's going to happen."

Sky, who have won five of the past six editions of the Tour de France, started the first of three consecutive days in the Alps with high hopes.

With Geraint Thomas only 43secs behind overnight leader Greg Van Avermaet, who is not a specialist climber, the Welshman was expected to be rewarded for a solid first week by pulling on the yellow jersey to enjoy a few days in the spotlight before four-time winner and teammate Froome took over.

Instead, Sky didn't react when Van Avermaet fought his way into an early breakaway group that went on to build a significant lead.

As Quick Step's Julian Alaphilippe went on to solo over the finish line to hand the hosts their first stage win of the 2018 edition, BMC rider Van Avermaet finished 1:44 behind to stretch his overall lead on Thomas, who trailed home over three minutes in arrears with the main peloton, to 2:22.

Van Avermaet - who took the lead after stage three - expects his days of glory to end on Wednesday.

"I don't still expect to be in the race lead at La Rosiere," said the Belgian, who is known more for his prowess in the one-day classics.

Van Avermaet will certainly struggle if Sky, as pledged, decide to up the stakes.

Brailsford claimed Sky were happy to take a back seat on stage 10 and "take control" of the race going on behind Alaphilippe and Van Avermaet in what he called a "fantastic performance" by his team.

And he hinted that Froome, now sixth overall at 3:21, is ready to take centre stage.

"Psychologically, the first week was pretty tense. But a lot of the guys, on the first rest day (Monday), were saying it was one of the 'easier' first week's of a Grand Tour," said Brailsford.

"That certainly plays into our favour."

He added: "If you combine these three days, it's a tough three days.

"All the GC (general classification) guys know that if you go too early or put too much effort in now, you're going to pay for it in a couple of days' time.

"You never quite know where you're going to be when you hit the mountains, but we're good."

There has been much discussion on whether Froome, or Thomas, is Sky's leader for the race.

Froome succeeded former Sky leader Bradley Wiggins as the Tour champion in 2013 and is aiming for a fourth Grand Tour triumph in succession having also won the 2017 Tour of Spain and 2018 Giro d'Italia.

Thomas wore the yellow jersey for the opening four days in 2017 but has yet to podium at a Grand Tour.

Sky's tactics on Tuesday also gave a hint, and Brailsford added: "We're kind of in the 'unknown' with Chris a little bit, in terms coming in off the Giro.

"But he's feeling good, that's for sure. He's confident, that's for sure. And he has a fantastic team around him.

"So at the moment, we're feeling pretty good about it."

Read more on:    tdf  |  chris froome  |  cycling

 

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