Tour de France

Sky riding on BMC’s train to fifth Tour de France title

Although Team Sky has held the yellow jersey since stage 1, Chris Froome's team has done little work to drive the peloton.

NUITS-SAINT-GEORGES, France (VN) — Sky is taking a “free ride” to the mountain passes of the Tour de France and to a possible fifth Tour de France thanks to teams like BMC Racing.

BMC Racing took control and pulled most of the day Wednesday. Some were surprised since Sky held the yellow jersey with Geraint Thomas.

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Froome, who already counts three titles, took over the yellow top from team helper Thomas on Wednesday off the coattails of BMC’s work. With BMC Racing pulling for Richie Porte and the sprint teams racing for victory so far in the Tour’s first seven days, the Sky train has kept its engine idling calmly. That makes for a “fresher” Froome.

“We’ve ridden a good race tactically so far,” Froome said Thursday. “BMC controlled it [in stage 5], I’m grateful for that.

“These sprint stages always going to be controlled by the sprinters teams and the lion’s share is on them, we haven’t done much so far and that will make a difference in the second and third week. We’ll be fresher.”

BMC Racing manager Jim Ochowicz said they took the reins to try to deliver Porte a stage win in the Tour de France’s first summit finish. Michael Schär and Stefan Küng pulled for most of the stage. However, Fabio Aru (Astana) came across the line first on La Planche des Belles Filles.

Porte’s strategy is different in recent years. The show of force raised eyebrows.

“I’m not sure we would’ve ridden as hard or been as concerned [as BMC],” Sky boss David Brailsford said Wednesday. “It was perfect [they worked]. Thanks for that!”

“They’re getting a free ride, Sky,” three-time Tour winner, American Greg LeMond told Reuters. “They’re racing smart. Let BMC do it, let the sprinters teams do it. They’re saving the team for the right time of the race.”

According to some insiders, Froome’s reign could be under threat by his former Tasmanian teammate Porte. Porte paid his dues with Alberto Contador in team Saxo Bank and with Bradley Wiggins and Froome in team Sky before branching out with BMC Racing.

The 32-year-old fired from the start of 2017 with the overall win at home in the Tour Down Under and the Tour de Romandie overall. He nearly won the Critérium du Dauphiné, only failing on the last day when he and his team folded under attacks from multiple rivals. He promised and “hopes” for  a payback in the Tour de France.

“Team Sky were not quite what they were last year. They have a lot of pressure coming up,” Porte said.

“I think they [Sky] have plenty of work coming up. In the big mountains, Froomey has the jersey now, they will have the pressure. They had the jersey since the start of the race and that will take it’s toll, I hope.”