LIVAROT, France (VN) — The Tour de France was a bit less colorful than usual as it rolled out of Livarot Friday morning, as overnight yellow jersey Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step) abandoned the race with a broken collarbone and second place Chris Froome (Sky) started in his usual blue and black Sky kit.
Wearing the maillot jaune in the Tour’s seventh stage was never an option for Froome, as Tour rules stipulate that in the case of an overnight abandonment a rider is not formally out of the race until he fails to sign in the next morning. So Martin retains leadership, despite his absence at the start line.
“Because Tony finished yesterday, I am still second on GC, so I definitely won’t be starting in the yellow jersey today,” Froome told assembled media at Friday’s start.
The Kenyan-born Sky rider said he wouldn’t have wanted to don yellow anyway.
“I just want to start off by staying that obviously with the whole yellow jersey situation, it was primarily out of respect to Tony,” Froome said. “I wouldn’t want to be wearing it today in any case. In my opinion that’s not the way to inherit the yellow jersey, through somebody else’s misfortune.”
Yellow jersey or not, Froome’s Sky team will be looked upon as the race leaders, and will need to take up the duties that come with the distinction. However, as Friday’s stage is one for the sprinters, the sprint teams will likely take control early and keep any breakaways in check.
Taking the lead “doesn’t really change to much for us,” Froome said. “For the whole race up until now, the team’s been keeping me right at the front of the race, which is no different to if I was in the leaders jersey or not.”
Froome should have no problem hanging on to the lead, if he wants to, through Sunday’s team time trial. The TTT is another story. Sky lost 35 seconds to world team time trial champions BMC, the team of current second place Tejay van Garderen, and 31 seconds to Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana squad over a similar distance at the Criterium du Dauphiné. But Froome’s lead, however slim, will provide confidence going into the team test.
“I’m in a really good position in terms of the overall and the general classification and the overall fight for the yellow jersey. Going into the team time trial, of course it’s good to be in that pole position,” Froome said.
Asked if he would have preferred to have Martin keep the lead, and stay in the race, which would have allowed Sky a slightly easier ride over the coming days, Froome wouldn’t bite.
“It’s a huge honor, huge privilege to be in the yellow jersey, but I’ve gotta get through today’s stage before that happens,” he said before Sky staff stepped in and he walked back onto the team bus.