Chris Froome stamped his authority all over the Tour de France with a blistering attack after his Sky teammates caused havoc amongst his rivals. He went solo with 6½km to go and kept his advantage all the way to the finish, crossing the line with arms aloft and a huge smile. It was nearly a minute before teammate Richie Porte overhauled a battling Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to take second place.
First day in the high mountains, the day after a rest day and Bastille Day to boot – today had all the hallmarks of a firecracker of a stage. While it was Movistar who lit the blue touchpaper at the base of the hors catégorie summit finish, keeping the pace high and sending Alejandro Valverde on sniping moves on behalf of Quintana it was most definitely Sky who concluded the display with a glittering finale. As they forced the pace, the number of riders shelled from the back increased from a dribble to a flood, while they managed to place three in the top ten. Definitely a good day for the men in black.
Rider of the day
There was no doubt about the outstanding performance by Froome and his Sky teammates – it was a textbook example of how to stamp your authority on both a mountain and your rivals. However, the man and performance that intrigued me most today came from LottoNL-Jumbo’s Robert Gesink.
The 34-year-old Dutchman has had a career plagued by injuries and health problems and has never really come to the Tour in tip-top form since he placed fourth back in 2010. The start to his 2015 has been cautiously optimistic: fifth at the Tour of California and top ten at the Tour de Suisse. He was quite bullish when interviewed on the rest day:
If I am riding as well as I hope, then I will occasionally have to attack but I hope to do it in the Gesink way: To hang on and then do something extra on a very good day.
He was on a good day and I was surprised and thrilled to see him attack out of the yellow jersey group with 11km to go. Yes, he was eventually overhauled, but he kept stamping away and held on to take a fine fourth place where many more illustrious names had tumbled. Welcome back, Robert.
Four things we noticed
1. Bastille Day. Traditionally a day when the French riders love to make a show. Did they do the trumpet blowing thing this year? I do hope so. However, while Pierrick Fedrigo (Bretagne-Seche) made it into the break of the day, there was very little else for the French to cheer – malheuresement! Best-placed home rider after stage nine Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) had a nasty crash in the feed zone and came in 3:19 down. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Romain Bardet and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) all fell foul of the pace on La Pierre-Saint Martin. There wasn’t even an attack by French housewives’ favourite Thomas Voeckler, for goodness sake. However, the flag was raised aloft and honour saved by the rather brilliant Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) riding to eighth and ninth places. #Bravo #Chapeau and #phew.
2. All over bar the shouting? Can we really be looking at the winner of the Tour de France after stage ten? I hope not, I wanted a right royal ding-dong of a battle. However, with 2:52 in hand on closest rival Tejay van Garderen, 3:09 to Quintana, and Alberto Contador a further minute back, and the fact that his team look super-strong – it does look like Sky are holding all the aces. But there is still a long way to go, and anything can happen. At the very least I hope for exciting stages and fighting until the very end – interestingly only about two minutes separate second from eighth place. It’s not over until the sprinters charge along on the Champs! Please let me not be clutching at straws.
3. All change at Astana? One rider who won’t be playing for any steps in Paris is reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). The warning signs last week of all not being right with the Shark were flashed in bright red today as he was dropped early on the last climb and struggled to hold the wheels of his teammates. With more mountain stages to come and at a loss to explain his performance, it looks like the team are switching to plan B.
4. Respect. One of the many things I love about this sport is the respect that is often shown between the riders. Yes, of course they all want to win and will do everything they can to achieve this on the road. But when a hard-fought race is over and the combatants have done their best, that little shake of a hand, or touch of a shoulder to acknowledge a job well done is just perfect.
We saw it today when the breakaway was caught, and between Geraint Thomas and Valverde as they took the finish together. It’s a shame we didn’t see it from Porte when he nipped around Quintana to take second place on the line. He said afterwards that he felt bad doing it, I hope he’ll think again next time. [To be fair, he was doing a job for the team by denying Quintana a couple of bonus seconds – Ed.]
Stage 10 result
1.Chris Froome (Sky) 4:22:07
2. Richie Porte (Sky) +0:59
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +1:04
4. Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) +1:33
5. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +2:01
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 35:56:09
2. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +2:52
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:09
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +4:01
5. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +4:03
6. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +4:04
7. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) +4:33
8. Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) +4:35
9. Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) +6:12
10. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +6:57
Points leader: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).
King of the Mountains leader: Chris Froome (Sky).
Best young rider: Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Team classification: Sky.
Link: Official race website
Featured Image: Chris Froome brings it home amidst the Tour hullabaloo ©ASO/X.Bourgois (Le Tour website)