SAN DIEGO, July 18, 2013 – Riders chasing down 2013 Tour de France leader Chris Froome of Sky Racing Team hoped to gain a few seconds or even minutes on him in Wednesday’s individual time trial stage.
It didn’t happen.
Froome showed why he is the one to beat this year. Even though his margin of victory was just nine seconds, it was a gauntlet thrown down to competitors like Alberto Contador and Roman Krueziger and a statement about wearing the yellow jersey as the leader of this year’s Tour.
Froome didn’t need the time trial victory. He had a good margin of over four minutes on his three closest rivals including Contador. Although Contador could challenge Froome’s lead on the remaining mountain stages, it’s not likely. Froome has shown far more climbing strength so far, so while possible it’s improbable.
But it must be a morale buster for Contador knowing he couldn’t gain even a few mere seconds on Froome despite riding an excellent time trial and finishing first until Froome crossed the finish line with a better time less than three minutes later.
Many riders switched to a swifter time trial bike for the final descent on the stage after the two main climbs including Froome. Contador did not change bikes and it made the difference. Froome was behind Contador at the final time check after adding 11 seconds for his bike change, but gained 20 seconds back coming downhill to beat Contador for the stage victory. A rueful Contador shook his head upon learning he’d come in second place.
Froome said later he was really surprised with the day’s win. “I went in almost prepared to lose a little bit of time just thinking about the days to come and not wanted to absolutely put myself in the hurt-box today ahead of tomorrow’s two times up Alpe d’Huez.
“I knew, having changed to the time trial bike for the end – with the bigger gears, I was able to definitely gain a few seconds.”
Froome doesn’t consider his lead insurmountable by a long shot. “It’s going to be a race all the way to Paris. Even though I’ve got quite a good buffer of over four minutes, I still feel like that’s being challenged every day and especially now as these next three days are going to be the hardest of the Tour so far.”
As for the friction between Contador and Froome after Tuesday’s descent in which Contador challenged Froome and had a minor crash in front of him putting both riders at risk, Froome said “There’s no personality clash between Contador and myself. We get on well enough on the bike and, I mean, it’s healthy competition I think. I just thought yesterday he did push the limits a little bit too far by taking risks in the descent and then putting me at danger by crashing just in front of me. All it needs is one little mistake like that and that could be the end of someone’s Tour.
“I’m not looking to win stages. I’m just trying to do whatever I can at the moment to hold on to whatever lead I can … I think that comes first as a priority and anything outside of that is a bonus at this point.”
The current standings after the time trial:
Chris Froome, Sky Racing Team: 66 hours, 7 minutes, 9 seconds
Alberto Contador, Team Saxo-Tinkoff, 4 minutes, 25 seconds behind
Roman Kreuziger, Team Saxo-Tinkoff, 4 minutes, 51 seconds behind
Bauke Mollema, Belkin, 6 minutes, 23 seconds behind
Nairo Qunitana Rojas, Movistar, 6 minutes 58 seconds behind
Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha, 7 minutes, 21 seconds
Laurens Ten Dam, Belkin, 8 minutes, 23 seconds behind
Jakob Fuglsang, Astana, 8 minutes, 56 seconds behind
Team Saxo Tinkoff took back the team lead thanks to Contador and Kreuziger’s results today.
Thursday will be a stage for the ages. For the first time in the history of the Tour de France, riders will climb the most famous mountain of all, Alpe D’Huez, twice in one day. Whoever is left standing atop Alpe D’Huez among the top contenders will be the winner of the Tour, barring accident or illness. It is sure to be epic and then some.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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