Team Sky’s Chris Froome, leader of the Tour de France and seeking his third overall victory in the race, says the pace of racing in the opening two weeks is the reason none of his rivals have attacked to try and seized the yellow jersey.
Quoted on the Guardian website, he said: “One of the reasons that you haven’t seen massive attacks from other people is that everyone is nailed. The first two weeks were full gas.”
Froome took time out of his rivals on the downhill to the finish at Bagneres de Luchon on Stage 8 and again on the less mountainous Stage 11 to Montpellier when he took advantage of crosswinds and finished an improbable second to Tinkoff’s Peter Sagan.
He also picked up time on Stage 12 to Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day, and in the individual time trial the following day, and leads Trek-Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema by 1 minute 47 seconds on the General Classification.
While a tough few days in the Alps beckon, Froome believes that the lack of summit finishes to date in this year’s race – the only high mountain one to date was the shortened stage to Mont Ventoux, where he ended up running up the mountain – has discouraged attacks on him.
“If you look at the composition of the race and compare it to the past, there has only been one mountain-top finish and even that was shortened. That means there are more riders in contention and that makes the race harder to control,” he said.
“I’m asked why guys didn’t attack two stages ago [on the finish at Culoz] but Fabio Aru, Alejandro Valverde and Romain Bardet did. Other people are tired.”
He went on: “I said my personal ambition was to be at my best in the third week, I started my season later than before and had a quieter run-in, which has helped, and I feel more ready for it than in previous editions.”
The winner of the 2013 and 2015 editions of the race does expect attacks in the days ahead, however.
“Other teams have said they are going to attack in the Alps and I expect they will. A lot can happen in four days. All you need is one bad day in the mountains,” he added.
Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford explained that this year’s race had been unusually hilly, even on stages supposedly for the sprinters.
“One of the interesting things is that there have been more metres of climbing in the flat part of the race. For example, on Monday [yesterday’s stage into Bern, won by Peter Sagan] there was 2,000 metres of climbing.
“I thought before the race that we would see a more aggressive first phase of the race given that we got to the mountains earlier than in the past. In 2015 getting to the mountains was a task in itself.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.