LE GRAND BORNAND, France, July 19, 2013 (AFP) – Spending 11 days in the
yellow jersey is taking its toll on Chris Froome, but the Kenyan-born Briton
is beginning to finally accept he will be crowned the Tour de France champion
On the penultimate stage in the high mountains Friday, Froome finished the
204.5 km 19th stage from Le Bourg d’Oisans to Le Grand Bornand with his 5min
11sec over Spanish rival Alberto Contador intact.
It was a day when Contador, the former two-time winner who lost his 2010
title after a positive test for doping, had hoped to launch an attack on one
of the five categorized climbs on the way to a downhill finish.
But after nearly three weeks of toil, in which Froome’s Sky team has dealt
with most of what the peloton and the elements have thrown at them, the Saxo
team leader has little left to offer.
Saturday’s 20th and penultimate stage finishes on the summit of
Annecy-Semnoz, but asked if he had anything left to aim for on Sunday,
Contador was evasive.
“It all depends on the legs I have tomorrow, and how the race develops and
what tactics we can employ,” he said.
Looking dejected, Contador will now likely return to the drawing board to
see how and if he will ever challenge for the sport’s top prize again.
That is a prospect that Froome allowed himself to dream of as he took
another step towards Paris.
“To be over five minutes ahead of the second place wearing the yellow
jersey is just amazing,” said Froome.
“I am excited, but quietly excited. I know 125 kilometers tomorrow, it’s
going to be very hard for someone to make up five minutes in the general
“But having said that, it is a day where the whole team’s going to have to
stay alert and control that last stage. One final big effort, then we can
start relaxing on the ride into Paris.”
On the penultimate day in the mountains there was ample opportunity for
Contador’s Saxo team to try and claw back their deficit.
But as an early breakaway forged ahead of the main bunch, the Spaniard’s
challenge failed to materialize.
Saxo’s accelerations helped drop several of Froome’s teammates on the
penultimate climb, but he ultimately crossed the finish safely on the wheel of
Australian teammate Richie Porte.
Porte has been tipped as a future challenger for the yellow jersey.
But despite playing his role to perfection in the wet and slippy
conditions, the Tasmanian said he won’t start beginning to celebrate until he
shepherds Froome over the finish of stage 20.
“I’d love to see Chris Froome win the Tour and we’re one day away from that
so we’re not going to be complacent but we are looking forward to finishing it
off tomorrow,” he said.
On paper, Froome has little to fear in the final stage in the mountains
although the battle for the teams’ classification — which offers a podium
appearance in Paris — and the runner’s up place means
Currently, Saxo lead RadioShack by 3:39 in the teams competition and
Contador has only a 21-sec lead on Colombian climbing specialist Nairo
Quintana of Movistar.
Sky team chief Dave Brailsford predicts a lively stage.
“There is a lot to play for tomorrow,” he said.
“There’s the team GC, all the podium positions, and there’s not a lot in
the top five in the GC so I’m pretty sure everybody will be thinking tonight
about how they can maximize their team’s and individuals’ chances of finishing
Despite his imminent triumph, Froome admitted that shouldering the burden
of the yellow jersey is beginning to tell.
“It’s mentally quite hard to keep up with that and wake up every morning,
still motivated, still hungry to go out there and look for more seconds,” he
“That’s probably the biggest challenge, to have a fresh mentality at the
beginning of every day when you’ve still got so far to go in the Tour.”