CAUTERETS-VALLÉE DE SAINT-SAVIN, France (VN) — Chris Froome already sits in a comfortable position 10 days into the Tour de France, but his Sky team says the overall win is not yet a sure bet.
Froome leads by a comfortable 2:52 over American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing). He pushed the gap out further Tuesday on the La Pierre-Saint-Martin, when he dropped all of his rivals for the stage win. Finishing second was Froome’s teammate Richie Porte.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) lost 1:04, van Garderen 2:30, and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 2:51. Defending Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) dropped back 11 kilometers before the line and is now 6:57 behind.
Even if there are 11 days until the Tour pulls into Paris on July 26, the race for the GC appeared over.
“The biggest risk? Anything: a mechanical at the wrong point, a puncture at the wrong point could be pretty damaging,” Froome said.
“Obviously we can expect other teams taking on the racing anywhere else: descents, crosswinds, even teams to go quite early from the start. We’ve got to be on our guards now.”
The sense in the pressroom, which was in white tents in the French sun for the last two days, is that Froome is running away with his second overall win after 2013. A similar feeling dominated last year when Froome and Contador abandoned, and Nibali ran wild to win the overall.
“You think it’s over? If it’s over, we can just all go home!” Sky sport director Nicolas Portal joked with the press while his riders showered in the bus.
“No, it’s not over.”
The Tour de France is officially not over. Wednesday, the cyclists must climb the infamous Col du Tourmalet en route to a stage finish in Cauterets-Vallée de Saint-Savin. Another mountain stage is on tap for Thursday. Then there are the Alpine passes of next week. If someone wants to catch Sky off guard, he will have his chance.
“Froome is very much stronger than me and the other rivals,” Quintana said.
“We will still fight for the yellow jersey. There are a lot of mountains and Tour ahead of us.”
Froome, for his mountains defense, counts on Porte, Nicolas Roche, Geraint Thomas, Leopold König, and Wout Poels. When one of them is leading Froome to the finish, another may go easier to save himself to be the lieutenant the next day.
“For sure, the team is really good on the GC,” Portal said. “I didn’t expect to have such time gaps now. We just need to make sure that we conserve what we have.
“We agree, right now it’s a really big gap. It’s comfortable for us mentally, but we can have a bad day. It happened two years ago [on the Bagnères-de-Bigorre stage and for a brief moment on the Alpe d’Huez stage]. Or maybe you can have a crash or a moment where you are lucid and you fall down.”
With the Tour still hundreds of miles away from Paris, the only thing for sure is that Froome is firmly in the lead of a race with many unknowns.