CHAMBÉRY, France (VN) — The Chris Froome/Fabio Aru score remains unsettled despite Aru saying he was unaware of the race leader’s mechanical problem when he attacked in Tour de France stage nine.
Sky’s leader and the yellow jersey race leader lifted his hand up and right after, the Italian champion with team Astana darted ahead on the Mont du Chat.
“We will have to see what Aru has to say about it,” Froome said. “I’ll certainly ask him about it when I see him.”
Aru eased up after, but seemly because he could not make his attack stick and according to Froome, because Richie Porte (BMC Racing) told Aru to show some respect.
“Richie said, ‘This isn’t the moment to attack the yellow jersey when he’s changing his bike,'” Froome explained. “I want to say a massive thank you to Richie and the rest of the group for not taking advantage of that situation.”
Porte crashed and abandoned later on the descent of the Mont du Chat.
Aru hovered at the front after being joined by the other cyclists and looked at them. Porte, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) or the others did not follow through.
“I didn’t see his attack,” added Froome. “I was too busy trying to change my bike. It sounded like he sat up, but that group then sat up but I think that was more to due with Richie from what I understand.”
[pullquote align=“left” attrib=”Chris Froome”]”I didn’t see his attack … I was too busy trying to change my bike. It sounded like he sat up, but that group then sat up but I think that was more to due with Richie from what I understand”[/pullquote]
No matter how it happened, Aru will not gain any fans from such a move. To his credit, though, Aru said never saw Froome’s hand.
“I didn’t see it because I was attacking, I wanted to attack from far out,” Aru explained. “I saw that I wasn’t making a big difference, then I heard over the radio Froome had stopped, I didn’t see it in the moment that he had a mechanical. Anyway, I wanted to attack at that point, when there was six kilometres to go.”
Aru and Jakob Fuglsang attacked on the climb in the Critérium du Dauphiné this June and pulled away with Porte and Froome. Fuglsang, thanks to the work, won the stage.
The team upset Froome on other occasions. Two years ago in 2015, Nibali attacked on the stage to La Toussuire when Froome, also in the race leader’s yellow jersey at the time, had a mechanical and put his foot down. In the same Tour, Froome stepped into Astana’s team bus after a stage to confront Nibali over a finishing incident.
Regardless if Aru saw Froome or not today, Astana defended his attack.
“You cannot always wait when a rider has a mechanical problem,” said Jakob Fuglsang, who counter-attacked later. “And I don’t know what happened in the case of Froome, but if you have bad legs, you can say you have a mechanical and you wait and you get two minutes to breathe and then you come back for the rest of the climb.
“We had a tactic plan. We had to attack early on the climb if we felt good. We also have to do our race.”
“If you have a problem you have a problem because once the race starts, the race is on,” sports director Dmitriy Fofonov said. “No one waits afterwards for anyone else when crashes.”
New Zealander George Bennett, who lost teammate Robert Gesink on the day to a crash, also questioned Aru’s actions.
“What was Aru doing?,” questioned the recent Amgen Tour of California winner, who finishes seventh on the day. ” I literally saw Froome put his hand up, Aru look at him and just attack.
“I don’t know if was as clear as that,” Bennett continued. “Maybe he was already attacking — I don’t know.”
After the incident, the Aru and Froome bumped each other, leading some to think that Froome retaliated with a body-check. Froome said it was due to fans, Aru confirmed the same.
“He was almost falling because he’d come close to a fan, he lost his balance and his elbow came out,” Aru said. “He actually said sorry, it wasn’t on purpose, no way.”
Aru said there as no reason to talk about the attack because Froome did not have “any problems” with it, but Froome indicated it remains an open issue.