Tuesday, 9 July 2013
Another amazing day in the mountains....
This Tour de France is developing into a classic - if they keep this up into Paris it will be one of the greatest Tours in recent years! On Saturday’s stage, Sky looked superhuman, on Sunday they were mere mortals – But one thing is for sure: we knew Froome could deliver a punch. Now we know he can take one.
He countered a day of brutal hills with stubborn determination and legs that stayed strong while his team-mates' went wobbly. Froome rode without protection for 130km of the loopy 168.5km route surviving numerous attacks on the way. Afterwards he called it "one of the hardest days I have ever had on the bike".
Meanwhile Team Sky's principal, Dave Brailsford, sounded almost thrilled that his riders had suffered a swift and sharp rejoinder following Froome's victory on the Ax 3 Domaines. "On Saturday night everyone was saying 'That's it', pulling long faces, game over and let's go and watch the tennis," he said. "That's why this sport and this race is so brilliant."
If Saturday offered giddy delirium for Sky, Sunday was the cycling equivalent of a vicious hangover – with the three riders that had worked hardest to put Froome into yellow suffering most. Peter Kennaugh tumbled down a verge after being clipped by Garmin-Sharp's Ryder Hesjedal. Luckily a bush broke his fall but he was still left with a bloody elbow. Shortly afterwards Richie Porte, who had looked so strong on Saturday, was dropped before coming in 17min 39sec. And Vasili Kiryienka, who had also put in some big turns on Saturday, finished outside the time limit and is now out of the race.
With Froome unprotected, the Movistar team of Alejandro Valverde sensed an opportunity. On the final climb of the day they sent Nairo Quintana, a classic Colombian escarabajo – (flying beetle) – who ascends for fun on the attack. He tried four times to wriggle free up the La Hourquette d'Ancizan, hoping to wound Froome so that Valverde could apply the kill. It never came.
"I felt quite within myself on that last climb but they did go for me," said Froome. "It is not easy to follow Quintana. He is a light little Colombian who can fly up hills so to cover his attacks definitely wasn't easy."
At the finish Brailsford was asked whether Sky's struggles on Sunday had showed his team were not superhuman after all. He nodded, adding: "That's what we keep trying to tell everybody. People don't want to believe it. Maybe they will after today. The bigger picture may not be such a bad thing."
He was supported by David Millar, who said he understood why Team Sky were secretive about the wattage their riders were producing in training and their methods. "If we had their numbers, we would be copying their training files and we'd know what to do to beat them," he said. "It's better for them to remain slightly enigmatic. If you have a recipe which obviously works, why would give away that recipe?"
But it was a day when actions spoke louder than words. On Saturday Sky seemed superhuman. On Sunday they were looking all too mortal.