Friday, July 21 2017

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All still to play for, insist Froome’s rivals

Update: July, 18/2017 - 11:40
France’s Romain Bardet rides in a breakaway past supporters during the 189.5km fifteenth stage of the 104th edition of the Tour de France cycling race on July 16 between Laissac-Severac l’Eglise and Le Puy-en-Velay. — AFP Photo
Viet Nam News

LE PUY-EN-VELAY, France — Chris Froome’s main Tour de France rivals insisted they still had everything to ride for despite missing an opportunity to gain time on the champion in the Massif Central.

Froome had a mechanical problem on a rapid run-in to the foot of a first category climb that crested some 30km from the finish of Sunday’s 15th stage.

The Briton dropped 50 seconds behind his main rivals but helped by a concerted effort from his Sky team, and a 20km chase, he bridged the gap before the summit and saved the day.

Many observers felt that was an opportunity wasted for the likes of Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru and Rigoberto Uran, particularly as they are all likely to lose time to Froome on Saturday’s 22.5km stage 20 time-trial in Marseille.

But they all claimed Thursday’s Alpine summit finish on the Col d’Izoard will be decisive, especially as it comes a day after another tough stage in the Alps.

"With the two back-to-back Alpine stages and the altitude finish, there could be some big gaps. For me, that’s the key stage, given my qualities," said Bardet, third overall at 23sec, on Monday.

"The level these days in the mountains was very equal with Froome, Bardet and Aru," said Uran, fourth at 29sec.

"But there is a climb like the Izoard, with its last few kilometres at more than 2,000m (above sea level). That’s where you could get some big differences."

On Sunday, the three closest challengers to Froome had a chance to work together to put some time into the three-time winner, but they didn’t and Aru, second at 18sec, said it’s difficult to organise such teamwork between rivals.

"You can’t know what you’ll do before finding yourself in that situation," said the Italian.

"We’ll see how the race goes. In my opinion, you have to make things up on the bike as you go.

"You can come up with all the great tactics possible, but it’s in the race that you’ll see whether or not you have the legs." — AFP

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