Tour de France leader Froome shows he can take punishment and dish it out, but his team wilts

  • Article by: JOHN LEICESTER , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 8, 2013 - 1:59 AM
hide

Christopher Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, celebrated on the podium of the ninth stage of the Tour de France on Sunday.

BAGNERES-DE-BIGORRE, France — The mighty mountains of the Pyrenees offered at least two important insights about Tour de France leader Chris Froome: He can land terrible blows to his rivals with his grinding uphill speed and can take their punches, too. In short, if the Briton in the yellow jersey perhaps isn't unbeatable, he seems very close to it.

After nine hectic days of racing over 1,513 kilometers (940 miles), the Tour luxuriates in its first rest day on Monday. The pause allows the contenders for victory in Paris on July 21 to lick their wounds and regroup after Froome knocked them dizzy and grabbed the race lead with a triumphant first day of climbing in the Pyrenees on Saturday. But they'll also be ruing the opportunity they collectively wasted the very next day on Sunday to hurt Froome right back.

On what may well prove to have been one of the toughest and decisive days of this 100th Tour, and certainly one of the most tactical and interesting, Froome's rivals isolated him from his Sky teammates and forced him to ride alone — one man against many — up four consecutive climbs as jagged as sharks' teeth. But they could not make Froome crack.

"That was one of the hardest days that I've ever had on a bike," the 2012 Tour runner-up said after defending his yellow jersey.

The rival who harassed Froome most, with successive squirts of acceleration on the last climb, was Nairo Quintana. The lesson the Colombian drew from this drama amid pine forests and peaks with stubborn patches of snow was: "That we can break down his team a little, but that he can defend himself and is very strong."

Sky's impressive climbing on Saturday was in some respects reminiscent of the way Lance Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service team would exhaust his rivals. But the way Sky wilted on Sunday definitely was not. Doped up on hormones, blood transfusions and other performance-enhancers, Armstrong's teammates rarely looked human like this. This Tour is the first since Armstrong was stripped last year of his seven titles for serial doping.

Seemingly drained by their monster efforts a day earlier, Froome's support riders quickly burned out. The day started badly for Sky when Peter Kennaugh crashed. He was treated for grazes and continued. It also ended less than ideally when Vasili Kiryienka rode in too slowly and missed the time cut, depriving Froome of his services for the Tour's last two weeks.

"It's quite nice to see that they're human," Froome said of his teammates. "I think it's quite understandable considering the amount of work they did."

For some rivals, Sky's difficulties on Sunday reinforced suspicions that the team isn't as strong as in 2012, when Bradley Wiggins and Froome finished one and two on the podium in Paris. Some riders were surprised that Sky wore itself out so quickly trying to control Stage 9.

"They are not unbeatable," said Jakob Fuglsang, the Dane who finished second behind stage winner Daniel Martin. "They blew themselves up one by one."

Martin's Garmin-Sharp team was particularly aggressive, with different riders distinguishing themselves with their go-get racing at different parts of the 168.5-kilometer (105-mile) slog from Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.

"We were attacking without even thinking about it," said the Irish rider whose uncle, Stephen Roche, won the 1987 Tour. "When you look back, it's kind of crazy. But we wanted to really make the race exciting. We really enjoy racing our bikes."

For Froome, the day was far less enjoyable. Richie Porte, his lieutenant who rode furiously Saturday to come in second at the Ax 3 Domaines ski station behind Froome, got left behind by the pace on Sunday's second climb, to the Col de Mente.

That left Froome without help for the next 125 kilometers (77 miles) and three more climbs in temperatures once again into the 30s Celsius (above 90 Fahrenheit).

Looking around, Froome could see no friendly faces, just his main rivals ganging up on him and all with teammates to support them. Their eyes were hidden by their sunglasses, but their intentions were not.

Yet each of the four times Quintana spurted ahead on the final climb, through pines on a mountain-hugging road to the Hourquette d'Ancizan pass, Froome furiously whirred his pedals to stay with him. Two-time champion Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde, Spaniards who have both served doping bans, stayed with this battle but couldn't surge ahead of it themselves.

Froome said he went into that last climb "thinking 'OK, this is where they are going to put me under pressure'" but was expecting worse.

"They did go for me. I mean, Quintana — it's not easy to follow Quintana in the climbs. He's a light little Colombian who can fly uphill, so to cover his attacks definitely wasn't easy," he said. "But yeah, I was quite ready for more attacks, and I'm quite glad there weren't."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: B. McCarthy 3 FINAL
Toronto - WP: J. Happ 4
Philadelphia - LP: A. Burnett 5 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: D. Gee 6
Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Hughes 2
Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco 8 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: W. Chen 12
Boston - WP: C. Buchholz 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: A. Cobb 0
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 6
Texas - LP: N. Cotts 2 FINAL
Houston - WP: J. Veras 3
Chicago Cubs - LP: C. Villanueva 6 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: P. Neshek 9
Oakland - LP: S. Kazmir 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: M. Shoemaker 8
Milwaukee - LP: K. Lohse 5 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 15
Los Angeles - WP: H. Ryu 7 FINAL
San Diego - LP: E. Stults 1
Washington - LP: T. Roark 3 FINAL
Seattle - WP: H. Iwakuma 5
Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: C. Anderson 6
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 0 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: A. Wood 1
Cleveland 4 Suspended
Kansas City 2
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Red Bull New York 0 FINAL
D.C. 2
Los Angeles 3 FINAL
Chivas USA 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 3:30 PM
Calgary
Phoenix 77 FINAL
Minnesota 82

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close